Telemedicine isn’t just something employers offer their employees as a consolation prize or a cheap alternative to seeing a doctor in person.
It helps employees overcome barriers to obtaining health services by offering more convenient ways to stay well and engaged in their health care. Getting employees the right type of care in the most appropriate setting also has the potential to reduce their out-of-pocket expenditures, and can ultimately help control premium costs for everyone.
In many cases, however, employees aren’t utilizing the telemedicine services offered to them. To solve the problem of employee utilization, it helps to first understand the benefits of telemedicine.
1. Telemedicine is quick and simple to use
Think about the long wait times at your doctor’s office, and how every year those waits seem to get longer. Now think about the extra time you’re taking to drive to the office and back, plus the time you need to take off work in order to do so. This is just one reason why telemedicine can benefit patients of any kind—it’s easy, it’s fast, and it’s available whenever you need it, right at your fingertips.
2. Telemedicine helps people get access to health care
Many people avoid going to the doctor and may consider skipping a regular appointment if it’s not mandatory for their employment. Some may have minor concerns and choose ignore them, hoping they will go away. And others simply don't have the time to see a doctor for every health issue that comes up.
Telemedicine offers individuals a chance to get a doctor’s opinion right away, as efficiently as possible. If they do have an issue, the telemedicine doctor can tell them in an low-stress way if they should seek in-person advice from a medical professional.
3. Telemedicine cuts health care costs
When people don’t see their doctors for annual check-ups, small issues and preventable problems can become lifelong conditions, like diabetes or high blood pressure. When you have the opportunity to regularly see a doctor from your own home, you’ll stay more aware of your health care needs. This can lead to a healthier lifestyle overall, and eventually lower health care costs for everyone.
On the other end of the spectrum are those who visit the doctor for every little ailment (or worse, those who visit the emergency department too often). For these employees, telemedicine is a much less expensive option that they can take advantage of to significantly decrease their out-of-pocket costs.
So, why don’t employees use telemedicine?
According to the Health System Tracker, 83 percent of large employers and 65 percent of smaller employers offered telemedicine services to their employees in 2016. The numbers are on the rise, partly because employers and their brokers are beginning to understand the benefits of this option for workplace health and combatting rising health insurance costs.
Unfortunately, however, only 0.51 percent of employees who had made at least one claim for outpatient services the same year submitted a claim for a telemedicine visit. No matter how beneficial the service is in theory, if employees aren’t using it, it won’t make a difference for their health.
There are many reasons why employees might shy away from the option of telemedicine. For one, they might not even know they have it. For another, they might be comfortable doing things the old way and could be uncertain about how to use a telemedicine service. Finally, they might think the service isn’t worthwhile, and that they’ll simply have to go to the doctor anyway to get the care or treatment they need.
This is where employers can help their employees recognize the value of telemedicine. To learn more about how you can help your team make the most of this great benefit, check out our post on 5 ways to get your employees to use your telemedicine service.