Telemedicine Benefits for Employers

Telemedicine is capturing a lot of attention from employers recently, and with good reason. Medical costs are expected to continue to trend upward in the near future; PricewaterhouseCoopers Health Research Institute projects an increase of 6.5% in 2014. More employers are also implementing consumer-driven healthcare plans (CDHPs), which increase out-of-pocket medical expenses for plan participants. The rise in CDHP use is prompting both employers and employees to look for ways to offset out-of-pocket costs. An overlooked solution is Telemedicine, which is changing the way people seek and get medical advice, diagnoses and prescriptions.

While Telemedicine has been around in one way shape or form for a long time, advances in communication technologies and the Affordable Care Act's (ACA) focus on efficient and cost-effective care have helped reshape this approach to healthcare delivery. Telemedicine has come a long way from connecting patients in far-off places with a doctor possessing a particular expertise. Today, Telemedicine puts a subscriber (i.e., an employee) in touch with a U.S. board-certified physician in their state to treat common ailments such as colds and flu, sinus infections, allergies, pink eye, etc. Telemedicine gives the patient direct access to a doctor 24 hours a day, seven days a week and 365 days a year. The consultation can take place by a phone call, email or a web-based video call, and may include discussing symptoms, treatment options and prescriptions. Telemedicine consultations are a supplement for non-emergency treatment and visits to a primary care physician. And best of all, Telemedicine helps make healthcare affordable.

What's the advantage for employers?

Including Telemedicine as a part of an overall portfolio of group employee benefits has become an important healthcare cost containment tool. Telemedicine reduces office co-pays for employees and claim costs to the employer's group healthcare plan. In a study of 17,000 telemedicine participants, hospital admissions dropped by 30% and doctor visits were reduced by 60% for a savings of 45% in unnecessary doctor and emergency room visits.

The American Medical Association (AMA) states that 70% of doctor's office visits can be handled over the phone and 50% of ER visits are non-emergencies. Telemedicine's savings in claim costs range from $300 per year for a single employee or more than $1,000 per year for a family of four. 


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