Can we all agree that Telehealth is here to stay? The service has gained immense popularity as an employee benefit. As a result, millions of Americans now enjoy reduced out-of-pocket costs and more convenient access to care.
So, what’s the next frontier? I believe it’s personal, online specialty care such as Doctors Online. This type of service is already increasing in popularity. Do you know how online specialty care compares to telehealth, and why employers should offer both?
I’m sharing 3 key distinctions between Telehealth and Doctors Online and how a good online specialty care service expands value-driven benefits to employees.
1. Primary care vs specialty care
Most Telehealth services provide access to primary care providers. It’s intended for acute yet common care needs such as sinus problems, bronchitis, allergies, urinary tract infections, pink eye, cold and flu symptoms and many other non-emergency illnesses.
Doctors Online offers care from a variety of specialists including physicians, psychologists, pharmacists, dentists, dietitians, fitness trainers and alternative medicine. There are 24 physician specialties and dozens of related sub-specialties (click here for a list).
ADDED VALUE: Connections to specialists from an array of fields greatly expands employee access to expert and personalized advice. This type of Doctors Online service helps when confronting situations that are less obvious than basic sick visits or more intense.
REAL LIFE SITUATION: “My husband had a skin condition. Searching online led me to the worst-case scenario. And the wait for an appointment with a dermatologist was 6 weeks! I then emailed a dermatologist from the Doctors Online service. The doctor replied in less than 2 hours with her advice on what the condition might be. This fantastic doctor saved me time, money and headaches.”
2. Phone vs email
Most telehealth consults take place by phone, with online video as another option. On average, a member will be discussing their situation with a treating physician in less than 15 minutes.
With the Doctors Online service, members ask specific questions via email which are routed to the appropriate specialist. Within 24 hours (3 hours, on average), a response is received and the member can continue to ask further questions of the same physician, as needed. Who hasn’t gone to a doctor’s appointment and later wish they’d asked another question or two? With Doctors Online, you can simply reply to the email to get further information. Plus, email allows attachment of photos, lab results or other helpful documentation. Think of this service as replacing WebMD and Google searches for medical concerns. No more self-diagnosing via the internet!
ADDED VALUE: Members can dialogue with an expert for medical guidance on their specific situation without the hassle of finding an in-network specialist or waiting weeks for an appointment. This gives confidence in next steps that are (or aren’t) necessary – which can mitigate potentially big ticket items from hitting the employee’s wallet or the employer’s health plan.
REAL LIFE SITUATION: I can personally attest to the value of a fast consultation for medical guidance. Last summer, I noticed some weird rashes and a variety of other strange symptoms – none of which were easily identifiable in my Google searches. I emailed a picture of the rash along with my symptoms to the Doctors Online service. The physician who emailed me back (on a weekend) suggested I get checked for Lyme Disease. Sure enough, that’s what I was diagnosed with, and because we caught it early (crucial for Lyme Disease), I had a successful treatment outcome. The doctor was available for follow up questions via email as well. It’s a great service that saved me a lot of time and potential health problems.
3. Rx prescribed vs Rx not prescribed
A Telehealth physician can write a prescription, if medically necessary. The service is designed to provide a quick diagnosis for a simple, common medical issue along with treatment options. While prescriptions aren’t guaranteed, they can be called into a local pharmacy if the doctor determines it’s the best treatment.
In contrast, the Doctors Online service is designed to be consultative. The member is seeking information, guidance, and perhaps a second opinion. However, the doctors can offer advice and opinions as to types of medications that might be appropriate for the condition being discussed.
ADDED VALUE: Many times, we experience serious medical questions that aren’t necessarily solved by running to the urgent care center for a prescription. These questions can be time-consuming, complicated and costly. Consulting with an online specialist is an excellent way for employees to be comfortable with the protocol being recommended by a treating physician.
REAL LIFE SITUATION: One member shared that a diabetes prescription she’d been using was not covered by her new insurance - it was an injection and extremely expensive. A Doctor’s Online consult provided her with an alternative pill medication to discuss with her physician that was $29 vs about $700. They made the change, and saved a lot of monthly expense while improving the outcome. That’s a real value!
A Comprehensive Approach
Though there are distinct differences between the two services, when packaged together, they provide employees with seamless access to both primary and specialty care. If you believe, like I do, that networks will continue to shrink and all forms of care will grow more difficult to access, it only makes sense to offer telehealth and an online specialty care service together.
Now it’s your turn! What innovative services do you recommend that increase care from a wide variety of doctors? How do you help your groups address the growing and significant pain point of higher out-of-pocket costs? Comment below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.