Star Wars Episode VII launched last year, so 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 (arguably) 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 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 and delivered to their pharmacy of choice.
What’s even better is the cost is much less than the bill at a general practioner, urgent care center or emergency room. The common price for a consult is around $45 (i.e. when embedded in carrier plans, or sold stand-alone), or sometimes the cost is $0 for the member (with a higher monthly investment).
If that’s not enough to convince you why you should be incorporating this service into your strategy in 2016, read my list of 4 reasons below...
1) The impending doctor shortage
Are your clients having a harder time getting an on-the-fly appointment or even an annual physical appointment with their doctors? 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.” This is happening for multiple reasons: an aging America requires more care, doctors are retiring, and 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 US-based, board-certified physician is there to help!
2) Networks continue to shrink
With carriers changing their networks almost as much as they change their prescription tiers, it’s likely one of your clients’ favorite doctors is now out of network. Yes, insurance carriers are shrinking their networks to mitigate costs (click here to read an article we wrote on this topic). The downside is that this and other previously covered services result in a constantly shifting landscape that puts more and more financial responsibility squarely on your clients’ shoulders.
In most cases, telehealth is network agnostic – in other words, it’s outside of the insurance plan. While more insurance plans are adding this service, implementing a telehealth service OUTSIDE of the insurance plan means employees don’t have to change services every time your group changes their carrier.
Using a telehealth strategy to allow employees to avoid some in-person visits for simple ailments could be just the strategy you need to help your groups (and their employees) save a bunch of money throughout the year. Speaking of…
3) Doctor visits cost money AND time
A recent study by Harvard Medical School 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 employees just avoid the hassle and skip 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) Employees love it
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 can solve 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 kicking the tires on a new service.
In short, telehealth provides employers and employees 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. It’s almost like "the force is with them."
Your clients are looking for solutions to unique pain points each year, and simply handing over another expensive medical quote is no longer an option. As telehealth becomes increasingly popular, it should be a staple in your strategy as you consult with your clients.
Now, tell me your story! Have you been adding telehealth to your benefit plans? Do you have questions about how to implement it effectively? Comment below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org