Employers Use Telemedicine to Reduce Costs

Health Other News Uncategorized

By Michael Fidlow

Friday afternoon I decided to get some yard work done and I suppose wearing gloves would have been the prudent thing to do. Well, as a result, Saturday morning I awoke to a blister on my thumb. My wife, a nurse, immediately recognized it as infected. My knee-jerk response was to go to the urge-med since our primary was closed. However, in my mind, that equates to a place where wasteful time, a sizable copay, and surrounding myself with other sick people will surely occur.

Hold the fort, I have this app on my cell phone that allows me to call a board-certified doctor with a minimum of 10 years of practice. I can look up the doctor’s specialties, I can obtain reviews, or I can just have one of them call me back right away. They already have my history, my allergies, my pharmacy and my PCP on file because these were suggested when I downloaded the app.

Well, because I knew the issue (remember I have a nurse at home) I chose a doctor to call me right back. I took two pictures of my thumb from my phone and uploaded them during the process, I provided a brief explanation of what was going on, and within five minutes my cell phone was ringing.

Telemedicine is two-way, real-time interactive communication between a patient and healthcare provider at a distant site, supported by audio and video equipment and integrated medical devices.

On the other end of the phone was a doctor with one of the best demeanors I have ever heard. His laughter was calming, (probably because I told him I had a nurse at home who knew the problem) he said he concurred with her diagnosis, the antibiotic has been called into my pharmacy, and if it didn’t help in 2-3 days to be sure to call back or to reach out to my PCP. By Monday I was perfectly fine.

So let’s review – within a half hour I had taken my first antibiotic (TIME), I paid $0 for the call and $4 for the RX (SAVINGS), and I avoided going to a waiting room where, scattered among the masses, are sick patients waiting their turn (HEALTHY).

Assuming we don’t have availability to our doctor, our industry has seen care migrate from the Emergency Room to the Urge-med Centers – dare I say a step in the right direction. But this is the age of the Millennial and the phone is built-in at the hip. Now, I believe, we will see this migration to Telemedicine where so many of the simple diagnostic concerns are ready to be addressed.

Telemedicine is two-way, real-time interactive communication between a patient and healthcare provider at a distant site, supported by audio and video equipment and integrated medical devices.

In fact, telemedicine is becoming so widespread that 96% of all major employers plan to make telehealth services available to their employees in 2018. Telemedicine in the workplace offers employers a unique and beneficial way to ensure their employees are receiving timely and convenient health care. Employers can offer telehealth benefits as part of an overall health insurance package or even provide an access to a telehealth program or on-call physician.

For employers, the significant reasons for implementing Telemedicine are obvious:

  • Reduces claims against their own experience rating, which translates to lower premiums
  • Benefits companies that offer HRA/HSA/FSA plans because claims are not filed against the funding arrangement
  • Employees can stay at work to make these calls without taking off half the day
  • Reduced cost of healthcare benefits and less out of pocket fees for copays at urgent care or emergency rooms
  • Saves time by avoiding in office visits and reducing absenteeism
  • More direct care leads to a healthy work force and increased productivity

Lastly, how about helping the uninsured and part-time workers who don’t have access to benefits. This is not a question of when, it’s a question of why you have not implemented this incredible solution as a company, or even as an individual. And if you think because you are not a Millennial or a Baby Boomer this may not be for you – think again – you didn’t get to my age without learning how to do something brilliant from these generations. What are you waiting for?

Michael Fidlow is president of Strategic Employer Planning Group, LLC a group health benefits consulting firm for small companies in NY/NJ that employ 2-49 employees.