All Things HR: Telehealth and TeleDocs
by Joe Simon, on Feb 12, 2020 12:02:00 PM
Talking to a medical doctor, either by phone, tablet or computer, with or without a visual component such as Facetime, can remove the need for many non-emergency ER visits. Telemedicine providers can advise individuals on home care, make recommendations for where and when to seek in-person care and even prescribe some medications. The textbook example is something like an ear infection, which can be diagnosed based on a description of symptoms, and treated with a prescription called into the nearest pharmacy. Saving not only the cost of an emergency room visit but the time and irritation factor of driving, parking and waiting, makes telemedicine a win-win for both employer and employee.
Show Me The Money: The “tele” cost savings are significant. Every emergency room visit that is replaced with a telemedicine visit saves your health plan anywhere from $309 to more than $1,500. The average telemedicine visit costs $38 versus $114 for a face-to-face consultation. Multiply these numbers over all your employees and you can see why telemedicine is gaining traction across many industries. In 2017, close to 60% of American employers offered telemedicine as an option on their health plan.
Skeptics of telemedicine have suggested it might lead to higher costs, as people are forced to follow up with an in-person doctor visit after the telehealth call. This duplication of cost has not played out in the real world, however. Recent studies suggest the rate of follow-up visits is similar between telehealth and in-office visits.