You have probably heard by now about the increasing popularity of telemedicine, or telehealth, an employee health benefit (not insurance!) that can be added to your current benefits plan structure which gives your employees the ability to call a real doctor in their state anytime, anywhere if they are sick. The buzz on telemedicine is picking up in the businesses sector as adopters are touting the advantages of adding telemedicine as an employee benefit.
So how does telemedicine work and how can it help your organization?
Let’s say you’re feeling ill and need to schedule a visit with your doctor. But, you’re so busy at work with deadlines and an increasing workload that making time to drive to an appointment, and then sit in the waiting room (which everybody loves!) just to spend 5 to 10 minutes with the doctor who then prescribes an antibiotic and sends you on your way… As your workload is piling up you’re driving to the pharmacy where you – wait, of course, for the pharmacist to fill the prescription. By now you’re starting to worry that you won’t make it back to the office today and the backlog of work is only increasing.
So what if you could accomplish this all-too-familiar exhausting routine entirely from the comfort of your office chair? What if your employees could do the same? As an employee, avoiding this hassle and stress would be a huge convenience. As someone looking to impact workplace productivity, absenteeism and employer-sponsored health plans, a solution to this scenario would clearly pay dividends. Think of the time, productivity and profit you could protect!
What is Telemedicine?
Telemedicine is a rapidly growing area of our healthcare system that is expected to serve up to 7 million people and capture a whopping $4.5 billion in revenue by 2018 according to”Huge Growth Predicted for Telehealth.” Also referred to as telehealth, it’s the use of electronic information to support long-distance, or remote, clinical health care. Telehealth has played a critical role in providing health care and health-related education in rural communities for many years, but as technology advances and everyone has a smart phone in their pocket these days, the telemedicine industry has evolved tremendously. With AllyHealth’s telemedicine platform, we give you and your employees the ability to call on-demand (or schedule at your earliest convenience) a consultation with a licensed U.S. physician in your state. You can select a provider based on user reviews, uses FaceTime on your iPhone to do the consultation, and even get a prescription sent to your local pharmacy if appropriate for your condition (pending diagnosis).
Large Employers Already Offering Telemedicine Services
Employers are beginning to insist on coverage of teleconference consults, as well as for the medical equipment that is sometimes needed to remotely monitor certain types of patients — cardiac cases, for instance — who might otherwise be hospitalized for monitoring.
Some of the largest employers are already adding or will soon offer telemedicine services. A Towers Watson survey of onsite health centers this year said 28 percent of employers will offer telemedicine benefits by the end of next year, up from 8 percent now.
Notes the report:
“In addition to onsite centers, organizations are looking to telemedicine as another way to reduce time spent in doctors’ offices and delays in securing appointments. The decrease in travel and wait times associated with visits to primary care physicians can have a direct impact on employee productivity. It reduces time away from the work site as well as time lost at the work site due to worries about a health condition or making appointments. Telemedicine is being used both on a stand-alone basis and as a complement to onsite services.”
Some employers are opting to offer a supplemental type of telehealth service, such as what AllyHealth provides for small businesses. Often an adjunct to an employer health plan, these programs enable workers who opt in to have access to a doctor 24/7. These supplemental programs offer direct physician consults, including diagnosis and prescriptions, but only for a limited number of conditions. Outside these, patients are directed either to their local doctor or, in serious cases, to an emergency room.
“This model works because you can be seen when you want as quickly as you want,” said Dr. Alan Roga, speaking at a Benefits Forum & Expo last month. Telehealth benefits are a great “turn-key solution for the employer.”
Providing Telemedicine as an Employee Benefit
At AllyHealth our employee benefits specialists work with employers to determine if adding a telemedicine benefit to their group health plans would be effective for their employee population. Some of the factors we can help assess include:
- projected employee adoption
- impact of absenteeism
- workplace productivity
- employee convenience
- cost savings to the business AND the employees
- benefits of a 24/7 call-a-doctor service
- typical diagnosis time and treatment
Disclosure: AllyHealth is one of the nation’s leading telemedicine platforms and the first designed for small businesses and consumers. We work with small business owners and managers like you every day to deliver cost-effective and impactful value-added health benefits including our industry-leading telemedicine solution. We’d be happy to speak with you if you’re interested in learning more about how this could help your company.