Now that Star Wars Episode VII is out, we can confidently state that we are in ‘the future.’ Despite this, the healthcare industry tends to lag behind. For instance, we still can’t replace arms (Luke Skywalker) or restore burned, limbless bodies to perfect working condition (Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader).
Even so, there are some really cool things happening in the healthcare industry that many people aren’t using. One of the most innovative and forward-thinking services is called telehealth. This is just a fancy word for having a consult with a board-certified physician via phone or video – the patient can even get a prescription written (if needed) and delivered to their pharmacy of choice.
What’s even better is the common price for a consult is around $45. You probably know this is much less than a trip to your family doctor, urgent care center or emergency room. It’s been estimated that about 70% of typical office visits could be handled over the phone – think sinus infections, ear infections, rashes, pink eye, common cold, flu, etc.
If that’s not enough to convince you why you should try this service in 2016, read my list of 4 reasons below...
1) The impending doctor shortage
Have you had a harder time getting an on-the-fly appointment or even an annual physical appointment with your doctor? The Association of American Medical Colleges estimates that “by 2025, demand for physicians will exceed supply by a range of 46,000 to 90,000.” Part of the stress on the system is that more Americans are acquiring medical insurance coverage and therefore, accessing services they may not have had prior. What this means is that you may be waiting a LOT longer to get a visit.
Receptionist: “Oh, you think you have a bladder infection? HHHMMM looks like I can squeeze you into an appointment in about 45 days.” Patients with a telehealth solution bypass this altogether, they simply complete a medical history, request a consult, and a doctor is there to help!
2) Networks continue to shrink
Has your favorite doctor fallen off your insurance company’s approved doctor list? In order to help mitigate as much cost as possible, insurance carriers are shrinking their networks (click here to read an article we wrote on this topic). If your insurance company has negotiated a price with a provider, that provider is considered “in the network” for your insurance company. This is why you almost always get a better price when you go to a provider who is “in your network.” If you go to a provider who is “out-of-network,” you’re probably going to pay much more – they can charge you any amount and bill you personally for what your insurance company doesn’t cover.
This and other previously covered services result in a constantly shifting landscape that puts more and more financial responsibility squarely on YOUR shoulders. Telehealth is network agnostic – in other words, it’s outside of your insurance plan. Using a telehealth service to avoid some in-person visits for simple ailments could save you a bunch of money throughout the year. Speaking of…
3) Doctor visits cost money AND time
A recent study by Harvard Medical School did some number crunching and found that, when you factor in lost wages due to the time it takes to complete a doctor appointment, the average patient pays an additional $43 each visit. The same study estimated that 121 minutes are needed to see a doctor under typical conditions. 37 minutes in travel, 64 minutes waiting for care, and only 20 minutes face-to-face with the doctor. It’s easy to see how this number can be even higher when the individual has to switch their schedule around, arrange childcare, or sit in heavy traffic. Additionally, It’s unfair to expect a doctor to be able to place a definite amount of time for each visit. Some ailments only require 5-10 minutes, while others might develop into something more demanding.
This study shows that the best-case scenario for a doctor visit is the loss of 121 minutes and an additional $43. The worst-case would be if patients avoid the hassle and stop receiving care altogether, allowing their ailment to potentially morph into something worse. With a telehealth service, patients get a low-cost consult with a doctor from their home or office within a few hours.
4) Users love telehealth
Some telehealth companies tout “customer satisfaction” and “issues solved” rates in the 90% range. If you’ve ever had a telehealth visit, you’ll understand why users love the experience. Cynthia in Texas has this to say, “I had a lingering sore throat/cough/ear infection and my primary care doctor was on vacation with no backup. I called, and within an hour had a prescription.” While telehealth with about 70% of doctor visits, there are multiple medical scenarios where telehealth won’t work. Click here to learn more – it helps to educate yourself a little before you venture out to try a new service.
In short, telehealth provides members with another avenue to access care more affordably and more efficiently than ever before. People can simply call from anywhere to receive the care they need. No more hassle.
Now, tell us your story! Have you ever thought about using a telehealth service? Have you already taken the plunge? Do you have questions? Comment below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.