Companies that add telehealth to their benefits package expect to see quantifiable results from their investment. Typically, these will include healthier employees, reduced medical absenteeism, increased productivity, and lower costs of care.
Telehealth does deliver these advantages, but your ROI will logically increase based on utilization – the percentage of your employees who are confident and comfortable with using virtual healthcare services. Here’s how to help ensure that everyone in your company can take full advantage of their telehealth benefit.
Communicate the Advantages
First let’s define some terms: “Telehealth” describes a wide variety of technology-enabled healthcare services. “Telemedicine” is often used interchangeably with telehealth, or specifically in reference to virtual visits with a doctor or other medical professional.
Telehealth services include:
- Doctors’ visits: for everyday ailments, like the flu/colds, simple infections, allergies, skin rashes, digestive problems, and other discomforts. Delivered via smart devices, app or web site. Consultations can be conducted via a video chat or phone call.
- Advisory services: enable people to get answers to health questions ranging from correct medication dosages to discussing medical diagnoses and managing chronic conditions from medical professionals. Delivered via chat, email, app or web.
- Counseling services: provide guidance and support during crisis or long-term assistance with life’s challenges. Delivered via video chat, private text app, phone call, app or web.
- Medical Advocacy services: for skilled help in navigating insurance, social and community services, and other issues around accessing and paying for healthcare. Typically delivered via phone call, at least initially.
- Dentistry: While you can’t get a root canal via the phone (yet), you can get immediate help and insight from dental professionals via telehealth services. Services include consultations, diagnosis, prescriptions and guidance on managing oral health.
- Life skills: Telemedicine can help support a holistic approach to health, with assistance in areas such as financial planning and coping with stress.
Offering a broad bundle of telehealth services is likely to raise employee enthusiasm about the benefit. And addressing a greater number of health and wellness issues can help businesses to better control health benefit costs. Let employees know that telehealth is more than a virtual check-in with a doctor. Telehealth can also support their wellness efforts, prevent illness (as well as reduce the chances that an untreated illness will worsen) and provide help in dealing with medical costs, insurance concerns, and healthcare access issues.
And the out-of-pocket cost savings are significant for your employees, too:
- Typical ER Visit: $1,500 to $3,000
- Average Doctors’ Office Visit: $130 to $190
- Telemedicine consultation:
- Typically: $40
- With :DP HealthNow: $0 virtual doctor visits
Address the Concerns
Common worries about telehealth services focus on whether a virtual visit with a health professional is as good as a “real” consultation. People also worry about the privacy and security aspects of telehealth. And some may simply prefer to see their own doctor.
For concerns about the quality of telehealth, you can communicate the fact that telemedicine has been delivering great results for over two decades; it’s been widely used by the military, NASA and in remote or rural areas where medical help isn’t often immediately available.
Medical professionals and research studies agree that many common diseases can be diagnosed and treated without an in-person visit to the doctor. A recent study by the American Medical Association (AMA) found that eighty-five percent of doctors believe that telehealth technologies will improve patient health.
Another study, from the National Academy of Medicine (NAM), found that 24/7 access to doctors through telemedicine, is improving health outcomes and also empowering people to have greater control over proactively maintaining their health and wellness. Telemedicine, according to the NAM report, delivers “…better health, better patient experience, and lower per capita cost” by creating opportunities for people to become more actively engaged in their own healthcare.
Privacy and security are valid concerns whenever digital services are utilized. Let employees know that telehealth services are carefully regulated, and providers offering these services in the United States must comply with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). Under HIPAA, patients’ medical records must be protected, and medical information is confidential.
Personal preferences about healthcare may be resistant to change. Employees who have established relationships with a doctor will likely continue to turn to that doctor for their health needs. That said, they may still wish to use other benefits in your telehealth plan. And there may be times when a virtual consultation meets their needs better than an in-person visit to their doctor. Let them know that it’s nice to have options.
Telehealth can be thought of as a self-service benefit, and much of the time you invest into user training will happen when the service is introduced to an employee. The amount of “hand-holding” you need to do should drop off rapidly after initial training is completed.
Plan on walking employees through the process of signing up for their telehealth benefits. Encourage them to set up their accounts with providers ASAP, where applicable, rather than waiting until they are sick. Utilization is likely to be higher when the account is already activated – including providing the necessary health history record for telemedicine services – and is ready for use when needed. No one wants to deal with filling out forms when they aren’t feeling well.
Ask your provider partner for assistance if your employees are reporting challenges in using their telehealth benefit – typically setting up the employee’s personal account will be the only area that might be a bit confusing in the beginning.
After the initial training, let employees know that one-on-one help is always available if they have concerns or questions about using telehealth. Some people may feel uncomfortable revealing that they don’t understand how something works in group meetings; others may not want to discuss the details of their health needs in an open setting.
Leverage Employee Enthusiasm
Your early adopters can help ease other employees into using telemedicine. Ask employees to let you know about their experiences with the benefit. Enthusiastic users may become official or unofficial champions of the benefit in their department. Other employees may find it easier or more convenient to discuss the service with their peers, informally, rather than requesting a meeting or training session.
Keep Driving Success
Telehealth provides significant advantages to employees and businesses alike. Driving utilization through education is key to ensuring that everyone gets value from this benefit. Treat deployment of telehealth as you would any key initiative: define your goals, plan a strategy that aligns with those goals, manage change effectively, and measure the results. Correct course if needed, and double-down on efforts that are providing positive results.
To find out more about telemedicine plans and how you can incorporate telehealth into your benefits offering, visit DPHealthNow.com.