Healthcare has evolved dramatically in recent years, making it easier than ever for people to receive the care they need — without even leaving the house.
Telehealth is a modern service that offers access to doctors, specialists, and therapists at any time through phone calls or video chats. It’s an increasingly common addition to healthcare plans offered by employers.
From an employer perspective, partnering with a telehealth provider is worth considering for many reasons:
- Telemedicine helps reduce employer costs, especially for self-funded plans.
- Access to quality care is quick and easy, especially in areas without other adequate medical care options.
- Telehealth helps reduce employee absenteeism.
- Additional health benefits can help you attract and retain talent.
While telehealth is not appropriate for all medical needs, it can be a valuable tool for employers and employees alike to control the cost of maintaining good health.
Common Uses for Telehealth Services
When an employer adds or transitions to telehealth coverage, the employer must communicate its benefits to employees through printed brochures and online benefits explanations. The material should list the ways in which telemedicine can be an effective alternative to a traditional doctor visit.
Limited Primary Care
While telehealth cannot replace a primary care physician, it can be helpful when an employee is unable to schedule an appointment for themselves or their family. In many cases, the employee will be able to discuss symptoms with a telehealth provider and get an initial diagnosis.
In addition, prescriptions can often be refilled through telehealth. Doctors frequently require follow-up visits after surgeries or other treatments. If a patient has no complications, telehealth is much more convenient than an office visit.
Physical and Behavioral Health
Medical care, such as physical therapy or mental health therapy, can easily be accomplished through telehealth. Patients can follow guided prompts or discussions with medical professionals without having to be in an office in person.
A common obstacle in addressing health issues is inadequate transportation. An employee may not be able to get to a doctor’s office. Telehealth appointments are available anywhere they have access to a computer and/or telephone.
Set Goals to Increase Usage
Managers can and should track the usage of telehealth by their employees and set goals for future use. The metrics used can include:
- Total amount of money saved by the company
- Total number of telehealth consultations by employees each month
- Utilization rate, which is the number of consultations divided by the total number of primary care physician consultations plus the number of telehealth consultations
To meet your company’s goals for telehealth use, you must design a telehealth plan that will interest employees. Consider plans that require no out-of-pocket payments or consultation fees.
Then, implement a communication strategy so employees are fully aware of their benefits. This outreach campaign can include:
- Emails scheduled regularly to remind employees of the value of telehealth services
- Links to the telehealth provider’s website as well as appropriate contact phone numbers
- Flyers posted in employee break rooms and bathrooms
- Messaging that is appropriate for common seasonal issues, such as allergies or the flu
- Testimonials from a “telehealth champion,” or someone in the company that appreciates telehealth
It’s important to note that telehealth may not be suitable for an emergency. In all communication with employees, you should make it clear that, if an employee or family member needs immediate care, they should go to an emergency room.
Finally, offer assistance with enrollment. Employees will appreciate information outlining the steps necessary to take part in the program. Make internet access available to help employees complete any applications — and participate in telehealth appointments.
Criteria for Selecting Providers
For employees to feel comfortable with a transition to digital healthcare, you must select a telehealth provider that has a user-friendly platform and a proven record of success. If the process is frustrating, employees will prefer more costly in-person options.
An ideal provider should offer participants a fast, easy, and seamless experience. There should be numerous ways for employees to schedule telehealth appointments. Younger employees are often more comfortable with virtual channels, while older employees may feel more comfortable speaking directly to a person.
Employees should be able to connect with a telehealth service provider via:
- Mobile app
- Online chat
Providers should be able to demonstrate a focus on patient satisfaction through metrics as well. When comparing services, HR managers can request information on the expected ROI of the telehealth service. Ensure that the provider has a utilization rate of at least 25%. If the utilization rate is lower, it may indicate concerns with the platform.
Sometimes, providers will increase costs when utilization rises. If this is the case, make sure that the ROI increases as well. Otherwise, you may not realize the cost savings expected from adding telehealth.
Consider using a provider with a fee structure that is more attractive to employees. For instance, look for plans that charge employees on a monthly basis for unlimited use. If there is a charge every time a patient seeks a consultation, utilization rates may remain low.
Modernize with Telehealth
The transition from a traditional healthcare plan to telehealth for employees can be smooth and effective. Managers should work with service providers that are able to demonstrate a proven track record for ROI and utilization rates through a user-friendly platform.
Do not presume that employees will naturally adopt telehealth practices without a targeted outreach campaign to educate them on the appropriate uses and benefits. Keep the tone of all communications — whether through email, flyers, or in-person meetings — positive and supportive.
Remind employees that telehealth is a powerful and affordable tool for managing their health in a way that benefits everyone — but only when they enroll and use it.