Telemedicine: Band-aid or Permanent Fix?

Telemedicine is a rapidly expanding employee and employer benefit that should be considered in your 2018-19 benefits discussions. From the employer perspective it has the potential to deliver better health outcomes and at the same time provide a valued new employee benefit to offer. From the employee side, it can be an easy and cost effective way to get healthcare quickly and easily while often providing access to a greater pool of specialists for non emergency visits. And for larger corporations it is becoming part of a standard benefits package as the 2018 Large Employers’ 2018 Health Care Strategy and Plan Design Survey found virtually all employers (96 percent) will make telehealth services available in eligible states.

Telemedicine has quickly moved from a concept to a reality but there are still issues you need to think through in order to maximize its effectiveness. For example if you offer it you still need employees to embrace it and use it. There has to be a comfort level with utilizing both the technology and the new patient medical experience that changes with this model. This requires training, marketing and time. In addition, as healthcare and technology become more intertwined there are also potential issues about data security. All providers and integrators should be known and data security questions should be thought through with your providers. Also, its critical to understand financial expectations – meaning besides the cost to implement what is a realistic expectation and potential for cost savings — and when. Finally another consideration is who are the best providers for your firm’s needs? By this I mean Is the offering coming from the payors or the providers? To date, most telemedicine is coming from the payors – meaning your health insurance company which allows for quick service (a midnight call to a MD? – they have someone available) as opposed to your employees’ doctors who probably are not on-call 24/7.

So there is much to think about as the model, the service and the costs evolve but one thing is for sure it’s not of ever but when this should be considered as part of your firms comprehensive benefits plan.