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Why Organizations Should Encourage Employees to Use Telehealth

August 16, 2018
Meredith Wagner

There are a variety of reasons why telehealth is building momentum, not the least of which are an ability to counter the current physician shortage, along with a growing number use cases.  However, many healthcare decisions are made based on medical benefits and which services or physicians are covered, which is where corporate HR departments and corporate leadership can enable better care while increasing business productivity.

 

 

By making telehealth available through their benefits packages and, perhaps more importantly, providing education around telehealth opportunities and benefits, businesses will not only help increase adoption, but they will create a healthier, happier, and more productive workplace.

 

 

Higher Productivity

Less time getting to and waiting at doctors’ offices and emergency rooms means more time in the office to get work done.  An immediate impact of telehealth is eliminating travel time (and costs) to and from clinics.  In addition, time spent waiting at healthcare facilities adds up quickly and takes even more time away from working.  Research suggests that patients can save more than three hours per office visit replaced by telehealth, and eight hours per ER visit.  Using telehealth networks, employees are able to seek consultations for common ailments, including head colds, allergies, low-risk injuries, and even mental health concerns.  Because services are available 24/7 and are location-independent, employees can access care anywhere, including from the office or even while on vacation.

Fewer Sick Days

Getting appointments to see PCPs can take days or weeks, and sometimes even longer, particularly with specialists.  With telehealth, employees have access to more immediate care, including specialists, allowing illnesses can be identified earlier for faster treatment and recovery.  Earlier diagnosis and treatment also helps reduce the spread of contagious conditions within office environments.  The result is fewer sick days being taken by employees and less unplanned disruption to workflows and fewer disgruntled employees who go to work while sick to avoid using PTO days.

Reduced Costs

Typically, telehealth services are less expensive than in-clinic equivalents.  An average virtual visit costs $40-50, whereas office visits cost as much as $176 on average, resulting in a direct savings for the employee.  That means, in addition to time savings and less time away from work, employees save money by using telehealth services.  Telehealth also provides an alternative to Immediate Care clinics and Emergency Rooms when primary care or specialist appointments aren’t immediately available.  A reduction in office visits – particularly unnecessary trips to emergency rooms – will reduce the number of claims against group healthcare plans, which can reduce to overall cost of the plan for both employers and employees.  Towers Watson estimated the total savings across U.S. businesses from telehealth use could exceed $6 billion per year.

Positive Corporate Perception

Most employees see their healthcare benefits reduced, or they have to shoulder a larger portion of the cost of insurance as businesses review budgets and plans.  Enabling more efficient care via telehealth that also is less expensive than traditional office visits can also elicit a more positive perception of corporate leadership.  Longer term effects of fewer sick days and better access to care mean work obligations don’t have to be shifted between employees as much to cover for sick colleagues, driving greater stability and general satisfaction within workforces.

 

 

Telehealth isn’t the answer to every health condition, but it can reduce the rate of office visits for many common scenarios and allow businesses to operate more effectively.  By ensuring medical benefits include telehealth services and educating employees on their capabilities, benefits, and effectiveness as alternative treatment options, businesses can increase the general well-being of its employee base and reduce costs across the board.

 

 

To find out more about how to telehealth can benefit your organization, click here.