Despite telemedicine’s capacity to allow people convenient and speedy access to healthcare, many employees remain skeptical and reluctant to take it up. But, COVID-19 has accelerated adoption, and people have become more open about giving telemedicine a try. For example, according to the 2020 Sykes telehealth survey, two-thirds of Americans said they’ve become more willing to consider using telemedicine services in the future because of the pandemic.
So, as an employer, you have an opportunity to encourage a more receptive audience to make the most of what telemedicine has to offer.
Before we get into how to do that, let’s look at what telemedicine is and the benefits of including it in your compensation package. We’ll also take a look at why telemedicine is a complement rather than a substitute to in-person care.
What is telemedicine?
Telemedicine is the diagnosis and treatment of patients remotely by a healthcare professional using information and communication technologies. These include computers, smartphones, mobile apps, and video-based platforms, such as Zoom. Some providers also use email and phone messaging to deliver care. Generally, there are three different types of telemedicine:
- Interactive medicine – real-time communication between patients and physicians via video-based platforms
- Store and forward – the use of digital platforms to allow healthcare providers to share a patient’s medical information, such as lab reports and X-ray images, to another practitioner in another location
- Remote patient monitoring – the use of digital medical devices and wearables to allow medical professionals to monitor a patient’s health
Why make telemedicine part of your benefits package?
Offering telemedicine to your workforce can have many benefits for both you and your employees:
1) Less risk of contracting infectious diseases
In-person visits to physician practices involve being in crowded waiting rooms and direct physical contact, which increases your employees’ risk of catching viruses and become ill. This can lead to additional periods of absence. Having a virtual consultation through telemedicine allows employees to avoid that risk.
2) Improves retention and attracts talent
Increasing competition for talent and the COVID-19 pandemic has increased people’s expectations for more flexible working practices and packages that care for their health and mental wellbeing. Including telemedicine in your health benefits show that you care about your employees and help you stand out. It will also make it easier for you to retain your most valued employees and attract talented new recruits.
3) Increase productivity and performance
Employees may need to take time off work to visit a physician or specialist clinician in person. This can lead to absences and disruption to productivity. In contrast, telemedicine appointments are shorter so employees can quickly settle back into their work, improving productivity and performance.
4) Reduces healthcare costs
Using telemedicine can result in considerable cost savings for both you and your employees. A virtual appointment only costs about $30-50 and allows employees to receive medical help directly from a doctor for minor conditions, such as the flu. As a result, employees can avoid expensive visits to ER for non-emergency reasons. What’s more, because the costs of telemedicine appointments are lower in comparison to in-office visits, insurance companies do not have to pay providers as much for claims.
5) Speedier and more convenient access to healthcare
Telemedicine allows employees to get in touch with a doctor or specialist sooner from the comfort of their own homes. In addition, telemedicine enables physicians to order prescriptions and tests instantly. This helps employees and their families get medical attention quickly and promotes preventative care. Telemedicine can also open up access to healthcare for people living in rural and remote areas.
When to use telemedicine?
Telemedicine can have a variety of uses. It is helpful for initial consultations to determine if a physician needs to examine or treat a patient in person. Telemedicine can also be used for virtual therapy sessions and empower employees to manage their condition and overall health. Telemedicine is also suitable for monitoring a patient’s disease progression. The medical professional can easily adjust treatments accordingly.
And when not to?
However, there are certain situations where it is better to go to see the doctor in person. In-person visits are critical if an employee needs a physical examination, emergency care, or weight-based treatments, such as chemotherapy and pediatric medications. Using telemedicine may also be difficult if the employee is hearing or visually impaired. Likewise, it may prove difficult for those with no experience with virtual consultations or the technology.
How to increase the uptake of telemedicine among your employees?
The reluctance among employees to use telemedicine services is mainly due to two main reasons. First, many of them are unaware of its benefits and how and when they should use it. And second, telemedicine apps tend to connect patients with a raft of different and unfamiliar physicians that don’t know their medical histories. There are steps you can take to overcome these barriers:
1) Actively promote telemedicine in the workplace
There are a variety of communication channels you can use to promote telemedicine within your organization. These include email, the intranet, payroll stuffers, and company newsletters and social media pages. Whichever channel you use, make sure your communication is targeted and tailored to specific employee groups. For example, email communications may reach office workers but not employees on a production line. Also, write communications in multiple languages.
2) Educate as you communicate
Explain how telemedicine works. Let your employees know what to expect. Educate them on which symptoms or conditions are ideal for telemedicine. Reassure them that telemedicine is a cost-saving complement rather than a substitute for in-person healthcare. Most importantly, link telemedicine’s features to benefits and employees’ pain points. For example, they can quickly connect to a behavioral health counselor via video. Or, they may more easily self-manage chronic conditions.
3) Make telemedicine easier to access and use
Create a designated office space where employees can use telemedicine services at work. Also, include telehealth systems for use in the home as part of your group health plan. For example, offer telemedicine accessibility by phone, computer, and TV. This allows your employees and their families to have access to healthcare 24/7. Above all, sign up with telemedicine services that allow employees to connect with recurring and familiar healthcare providers.
By including telemedicine in your health benefits and effectively promoting it, you empower your employees to manage their health and prevent any current conditions from getting worse. This will help you avoid considerable healthcare costs further down the line and build a healthier, happier, and productive workforce.
Benefits Solutions Group, a member of the Tandem Family of Companies, assists hundreds of businesses with compliant benefits solutions.