How Telemedicine Is Driving Down Costs & Improving Healthcare
Technology is changing the world of healthcare and Telemedicine is leading the way. You’re likely aware that Telemedicine is an electronic communication system that connects doctors and their patients outside of the hospital. For group health plans here in Houston, Texas, this means serious cost savings.
With those cost savings in mind, Telemedicine technology is of great interest to employers. Even the Federal Communications Commission agency is investing in Telemedicine with a new $100 million telemedicine health program called the Connected Care Pilot Program designed to help veterans and low-income Americans in remote areas of the country.
And as medical costs continue to rise, more employers are jumping on the bandwagon. Consumer-driven healthcare plans are becoming increasingly popular which means more costs for employees. Telemedicine plans are a safe addition that cost employers far less without reducing the quality of care. Additionally, it keeps employees from missing working unnecessarily, thus increasing efficiency.
Telemedicine’s strongest feature is the ability for employees to connect with U.S. board-certified physicians without so much as leaving their home. Those physicians are available 24/7 all year long. With as little as access to the internet and a smartphone, basic healthcare can be administered. But where employers benefit most is in cost savings.
Employers Cut Costs with Telemedicine
Adding Telemedicine to a general group employee benefits portfolio is no longer an option—it’s a critical cost containment tool. But how does it cut costs for employers?
One way is through the reduction of claim costs to an employer group healthcare plan. One recent study showed that of 17,000 telemedicine recipients hospital admissions were reduced by 30% and doctor’s visits too saw a drop of some 60%. This resulted in some 45% cuts to doctor and ER visits.
Add to this that the American Medical Association revealed that some 70% of doctor’s office visits could easily be handled over the phone and that over half of all ER visits are non-emergencies, and it is easy to see how telemedicine could reduce costs.
In terms of tangible costs savings, Telemedicine saves roughly $300 per employee per year on claim costs. That equals about $1,000 per year for families of four. With thousands saved over the course of a few years, employers can take a major bite out of rising health care costs without reducing the quality of care that their employees enjoy.
For example, the business Rent-A-Center reported savings of more than $800,000 for direct employee healthcare costs savings and productivity just by adding telemedicine care to their employee health plan.
One way those savings are achieved is through doctor’s appointments. Telemedicine appointments are the alternative that prevents physician capacity from going to waste. We’ve seen availability for patients reduced because of wasted capacity. For remote patients, this causes problems for care. With Telemedicine appointments, patients can receive the care they need without more expensive system costs passed on to them.
Additional benefits that employers can expect from Telemedicine:
- Reduced facility charges, expensive office visit costs, and ER specialist’s charges.
- Increased productivity from employees
- Easy access thanks to a wide variety of Telemedicine Partners
- It’s accepted as a proven medical service by most major insurance provider plans
The Effect of Telemedicine on Employee Healthcare
Adding or changing an employee healthcare benefit can be questionable. Determining the costs and quality care outcomes is crucial before making that decision. However, we have already established the cost reduction associated with Telemedicine systems. But what about the quality of employee healthcare?
As we previously touched on, Telemedicine enables employees to access a doctor quickly and easily by phone. That’s the first benefit of Telemedicine. This obviously means that employees don’t have to deal with long wait lines to gain access to their healthcare provider. No unnecessary emergency room visits where it’s easy to contract another illness because of other sick people.
When it comes to care, Telemedicine exceeds there as well. Some 97% of patients receive treatment after one call and typically wait only 8 minutes to speak with a physician. Doctors can also prescribe medication and offer prescriptions to any preferred pharmacy. This results in far fewer primary care costs and increases the overall efficiency of healthcare.
But above all, the greatest advantage of telemedicine systems is that all employees who fall under your group healthcare plans can benefit from this service. Telemedicine programs can easily be added into your group medical insurance coverage or if you prefer to offer it as an add-on for your employees to opt-in, that can easily be done as well. Even employees who are unable to pay for premium group benefits or those who are part-time can get direct access to affordable healthcare plans with Telemedicine. For employers, it simply is an easy decision to offer Telemedicine through their employer group healthcare plan.
Tips for Selecting a Telemedicine Provider
Now that you are fully aware of the importance of telemedicine benefits to employees and to your organization, the question is how should or can you select the best provider? Here are a few of our top tips for selecting the right telemedicine provider.
Tip #1. Ask about convenience.
Inquire if the provider offers simple, convenient, and quick access to an actual physician or if employees will be reaching nurses or nurse-practitioners instead.
Tip #2. Ask what communication options are available.
Another important feature is communication. A good provider will offer contact through video conference, email, and phone. Any fewer options could signal poor service.
Tip #3. Doctors should be allowed to offer prescriptions.
A good telemedicine plan will offer doctors a chance to offer prescriptions when necessary. This is a critical component of healthcare and failure to have access to prescriptions will cause an undue burden on employees and reduce cost savings.
Tip #5. Expected total cost benefits.
Your providers will vary greatly on total costs. Ask about the process for payment, whether copays are required, what the monthly member fee, and ask if they work in the favor of your employees or the physicians in their network. Also, ask about monthly call limits and any other issues that could negatively affect your employee’s benefits.
Tip #6. Do they offer information integration?
Inquire if they are willing to perform annual employee surveys and pass that information on to their doctors or call primary care physicians to gather necessary information. This is very important to the overall employee experience with your Telemedicine program.
When you’re ready to add a telemedicine program to your employee healthcare plan, please give us a call. We have helped many Houston, Texas-based businesses adjust their benefits packages and we can do the same for you.