Telemedicine: New potential for companies and employees

With open enrollment season in high gear, many employers and employees are learning more and more about telemedicine, a relatively new employee benefit tailor-made for these fast-moving, inter-connected times with healthcare costs continuing to rise. Telemedicine is when a patient gets a virtual consultation from a medical professional, including a licensed doctor. The consultation can take place over the telephone, or it can take place via computer, tablet or smartphone. According to the Wall Street Journal, about 1.2 million telemedicine sessions were expected to be held in 2016, per the American Telemedicine Association. That’s an increase of 20 percent over the previous year.

In addition to the convenience of telemedicine, the cost savings can be appealing to companies and their employees. In-person doctor visits can come at a higher-than-hoped cost, especially for relatively minor ailments. For bumps, bruises, aches and sniffles, telemedicine could be a perfect intermediate step between hoping the problem goes away and heading to a physician. Telemedicine visits might also be even more cost-effective than a visit to the immediate-care centers that have risen in popularity in recent years, though that can vary, depending upon your insurance.

The major limitation is that it cannot completely replace an in-person visit with a licensed physician. The more serious the health concern, the more pressing a personal doctor consultation becomes.

Nevertheless, telemedicine clearly looks to be an employee benefit offering with staying power. The same can be said for various elements of the telehealth field. To wit: At a conference this year, Kaiser Permanente CEO Bernard Tyson reported that more than half of the California health care provider’s contacts with its 110 million patients in 2015 were via telehealth channels.

“We are going through a major transformation in healthcare,” Tyson said, according to mHealthIntelligence.com. “Because we were all-knowing, we built the entire healthcare industry where everyone has to come to us, but now we are reversing the theory where people have to come to us for everything, so we’ve invested billions in our technology platform.”

Want to learn more about the advantages of telemedicine? We can help. Contact a Plexus client service team member in Deer Park, Ill. (847-307-6135), Chicago (312-606-4800), Dallas (972-770-5010) or Oklahoma City (405-840-3033), or reach out to us via the Web.