Human Resources News & Insights

Electronic tools could help bring health plan costs down

It could pay to take a closer look at this largely untapped healthcare strategy.  

Between the lower overall health costs, reduced absenteeism and time away from work, the benefits of telemedicine are immense.

Essentially, telemedicine is when healthcare providers use electronic communications to diagnose and treat patients.

And these electronic communications come in a variety of formats such as photos via text message, phone calls, videos, specialized apps and a number of other tools to facilitate communication between a patient and a doctor.

22 states and DC

While telemedicine isn’t an entirely new approach, it has gained a lot traction in the last half decade or so for a variety of reasons.

One of the biggest obstacles to telemedicine in the past was the fact that most states didn’t require insurance companies to cover the option. Now, however, private insurers in 22 states and the District of Columbia are required to cover this option in the same way they cover in-person healthcare visits.

Combine that with the fact that improved technology has made this practice much more efficient and effective, and you get a sense of why this strategy is becoming more popular with employers today.

How popular? According to national telemedicine service Amwell, around 20% currently offer telemedicine services — and more than 60% said they would do so within the next two years.

$49 per visit, on average

There’s a number of significant benefits to telemedicine that translates to other positives such as reduced absenteeism (employees aren’t missing work for appointments and tests), fewer hospital stays and admissions, decreased travel time to and from doctor’s visits, and increased appointment compliance (workers are more likely to stick to telemedicine appointments then in-person visits).

Another prime selling point: The low cost for employees and employers.

According to Amwell’s Mary Modahl, here’s how the average telemedicine visit compares to other traditional medical visit charges:

  • $95  to $140 per visit (average charge for urgent-care clinic visit)
  • $750 and up (average charge for ER visit), and
  • $49 (average charge for telemedicine visit).
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