telemedicine options for employers

By: American Well (Benefits Pro) December 2015

Seventy-four percent of employers plan to offer telehealth in 2016, up from just half in 2015!

The rapid adoption of telehealth is typically credited as being driven by health care providers, but it’s actually employers who are leading this charge.

Why are employers moving toward telehealth?

The short answer is cost and access. Telehealth decreases the costs of health care for employers and it also increases access to care for employees, making it a win-win for benefits managers.

As employers search for the right telehealth offering for their employees, it can be hard to figure out what makes a great telehealth offering. Here are the six key factors employers should consider when selecting a telehealth service:

1. Video Visits (Not Just Telephone)

There can be a lot of confusion around what constitutes a truly valuable “telehealth service,” because the term telehealth can refer to video, telephone, and other health care technologies. When searching for a telehealth service, employers should look for one that offers video visits.

Why? Because the Federation of State Medical Boards (FSMB) recently adopted new guidelines for the safe practice of telehealth, and in the policy, they stipulate that telehealth is not an audio-only conversation, but instead involves secure videoconferencing.

Secure chat and telephone can play an important backup role, but they should not be the main care delivery mechanisms of a telehealth service. Employers should look for services that offer real-time video. Video is critical because it allows patients to form a stronger, more meaningful connection with their doctor and it allows the doctor to better assess and treat the patient.

2. Choice of Doctor

Just as employees appreciate being able to choose their in-office primary care physician, they will also want to choose a doctor for their online video visit, and a telehealth service should allow them to do so.

There are many myths surrounding telehealth, including the myth that online doctors aren’t legitimate medical professionals. The truth is that a trusted telehealth service employs only board-certified, qualified doctors. A telehealth service needs to be completely transparent in allowing employees to see which doctors are available for consults. Each doctor should have a profile with his or her educational background and ratings from other patients. This type of transparency, and choice, allows employees to make informed decisions for their telehealth visits.

3. Benefits Integration

Employees want telehealth to be as integrated as possible into their benefits. If employees pay just a co-pay for an in-person doctor’s care, they want to be able to do the same for their telehealth service. Or, if they have a high deductible plan, they want the ability to easily count their visit cost toward their deductible, and to use pre-tax health savings account dollars to pay for a visit.

Additionally, benefits integration makes the rollout process smooth and efficient for the benefits manager.

The best telehealth services have the ability to integrate benefits, as well as make real-time eligibility calls to verify a patient’s coverage, services, and co-pays.

4. Company Branding and Customization

A telehealth service is a great added benefit for employees. For it to be successful, it’s important for employees to trust the service they’re using and be reminded of how much their company values them and their well-being when they use it.

A telehealth service can allow an employer to put its own branding and stamp on the platform, for example placing a company logo on the service or making the provider population reflect the employee population’s specific needs.

Customization can also include incorporating any onsite clinical staff an employer may have, allowing them to extend care to satellite locations, employees who work from home, or employees’ family members.

5. 24/7 Access

Your employees might require access to health care at any time of day and giving them the ability to receive that health care when they really need it increases efficiency and satisfaction for everyone. Not all telehealth services can provide 24/7/365 access with clinicians available at any hour, but it’s an important value proposition for telehealth. Employees want access to care when they most need it, and employers want to make sure that a service can respond to needs of different shift schedules or employee populations.

6. Marketing Support

What good is a great telehealth service if employees don’t know about it? Just like any other health care benefit, employees need to be aware of and educated about how and when to use telehealth, so that when the time comes, they’re ready—and remember—to use it.

Telehealth services can offer resources and best practices to help engage employees and make the most of the service. Driving awareness and utilization is key to cost saving—which is why marketing support is a must!

Benefits Pro