Organizations everywhere are looking for ways to increase profitability and reduce employee medical costs, especially if they are self-funded. A great way to help reduce medical employee costs is by using options that will decrease the need to see a primary care physician or health care provider for simple health issues like the flu, sore throats or other nominally irritating medical needs.
Certainly for more serious health care matters, employees should seek medical attention when the need arises. However, telemedicine is now a hot commodity in health care.
When all that’s needed may be a simple diagnosis for a non-narcotic prescription, a phone call to a physician at no cost to the employer and the employee is the least expensive way to handle the event. By simply using a validated 24/7 telephonic service to reach a medical doctor for these needs to avoid taking time off from work and incurring billable expenses for an office visit will save both the company and the worker valuable time and money.
Telemedicine is getting huge attention now as a way to lower employee health care costs. According to the American Telemedicine Association (ATA), telemedicine is the use of medical information exchanged from one site to another via electronic communications to improve patients’ health status.
According to the Baltimore Sun, the technology is available and relatively inexpensive. It’s the regulatory hurdles that present the challenge. Because of licensing restrictions, specialists might have trouble treating and prescribing medicine for patients they’re examining electronically across state lines.
Also, only a handful of states require insurers to cover telehealth care. Telehealth equipment can be installed in physicians’ offices, small clinics, hospitals and even workplaces for from $10,000 to $100,000. Such technology isn’t intended to replace patients’ connection to a primary care physician. Instead, it’s meant to hook them up quickly to care that is sometimes difficult to find.
According to a survey from PricewaterhouseCoopers and reported by Modern Medicine, 50 percent of consumers surveyed said they’d be willing to seek health care through the Internet or other computer technology instead of face-to-face, non-emergency visits.
E-mail consultation was the top choice (76 percent), followed by telemedicine, question-answer consults and an online forum monitored by a doctor. The second alternative to access was retail and worksite clinics for patients. Of consumers surveyed, 37 percent said they would likely use a worksite clinic, and 36 percent said they would use a retail health clinic.
The third alternative was the use of telemedicine technologies. This method could expand access to specialty physicians for patients in remote and underserved areas.
According to the ATA, telemedicine has been growing rapidly because it offers three fundamental benefits:
• Improved Access – For more than 40 years, telemedicine has been used to bring healthcare services to patients in distant locations. Not only does telemedicine improve access to patients, but it also allows physicians and health facilities to expand their reach beyond their own offices.
• Cost Efficiencies – Reducing or containing the cost of healthcare is one of the most important reasons for funding and adopting telehealth technologies. Telemedicine has been shown to reduce the cost of healthcare and increase efficiency through better management of chronic diseases, shared health professional staffing, reduced travel times and fewer or shorter hospital stays.
• Patient Demand – Consumers want telemedicine. The greatest impact of telemedicine is on the patient, their family and their community. Using telemedicine technologies reduces travel time and related stresses to the patient. Over the past 15 years, study after study has documented patient satisfaction and support for telemedical services. Such services offer patients the access to providers that might not be available otherwise as well as medical services without the need to travel long distances.
Want to learn more about bringing telemedicine to your business? Call AllyHealth today to schedule a demo.