Although the health systems that serve your employees may have seen the number of telehealth visits plateau or decline this year, they’re still a valuable benefit that your health plan provider can’t afford to stop covering.
For example, COVID-19, flu and RSV case surges as we head into winter demonstrate the necessity of a virtual care delivery option.
According to Mercer, 40% of employers will be implementing a virtual primary care physician network or service in 2023.
During this year’s Thomson Reuters “Total Health” event in Chicago, Jim Skogsbergh, the president and CEO of Advocate Aurora Health, called telehealth “a genie you’re not going to put back in the bottle.”
“Nor should we try to put it back in the bottle if we’re going to provide health care that’s accessible and timely and (helps to) avoid hospitalizations and make it easy for patients,” he continued. “(It’s) not perfect in every situation, as our providers will tell us … but in many cases, it absolutely suffices and … I think we can (continue to utilize it to) improve care and lower costs and avoid some of the costly visits. Done properly … it’s at least 25% less expensive.”
The state of telehealth
The Medical Group Management Association asked medical group leaders what they thought was going to happen to telehealth patient demand next year:
- 45% said they expect no change
- 27% responded that there will be an increase, and
- 28% predicted a decrease.
Several survey respondents expressed concern that commercial health plans may decide to discontinue coverage of virtual health services. Hopefully, yours isn’t one of them.
Also, major players in the the telehealth space are reportedly considering offering direct-to-consumer mental health services. Telehealth would be a key element for care delivery for the employers planning to integrate or add behavioral health services next year. Skogsbergh noted that despite a 25% drop-off in televisits among Advocate Aurora Health’s hospitals and clinics, half of the visits are related to mental health.
Another reason telehealth isn’t going away – it’s critical for healthcare access in many rural areas and regions with physician shortages.
Promoting the use of telehealth services is one of HRMorning’s “Five Strategies to Promote Healthcare Consumerism.” To make your employees smarter healthcare consumers, consider working with your health plan to reduce member cost-sharing fees for telehealth in order to boost participation.
Some organizations offer gift cards or other incentives to employees who register for virtual visits.
And some keys to drive home with your employees: Telehealth means not having to take time off work, prevents needless exposure to illness and saves them money on travel and childcare costs.