March 13, 2020
For the last couple of years, we’ve seen the rapid growth of telehealth as a valuable health plan offering in the healthcare industry. It has been made readily available in both fully-insured plans as well as self-funded healthcare programs. Unfortunately, many recent studies have shown that this growth has been accompanied by very low utilization of this benefit with studies showing approximately 9% of eligible employees having access to telehealth actually using the benefit.
WHAT IS TELEHEALTH
Telehealth is a healthcare benefit offered that gives your employees 24/7/365 access to U.S. board-certified doctors through the convenience of phone or video consults. It an affordable, more convenient alternative to costly doctors office, urgent care, and ER visits for common medical conditions like cold & flu symptoms, allergies, bronchitis, sinus problems, urinary tract infections, and minor respiratory infections.
ADVANTAGES OF TELEHEALTH with the COVID-19 outbreak
Telehealth does not in any way replace your primary care physician or family doctor. However, it can play a potentially crucial role as the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak continues to expand in the U.S. and other countries. It does this by providing an alternative option for accessing care for non-epidemic issues so employees avoid unnecessary care and exposure to hospitals, doctor’s offices and other healthcare facilities. Per the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), telehealth platforms can prevent patients who can be cared for at home from potentially exposing themselves or others to germs. In addition, accessing the on-line virtual care of telehealth for simple health issues, and some maintenance health issues like diabetes, rather than see a doctor face to face means shorter wait times with expedited treatment. Finally, with the current COVID-19 crisis, many insurers are waiving the co-pays and costs of accessing the telehealth benefit in their healthcare plans making it an affordable viable option.
EDUCATE YOUR EMPLOYEES ABOUT TELEHEALTH
With this in mind, there is a valuable opportunity here to educate employees about existing telehealth solutions that are currently in place, or for employers not offering it, to make immediate plans to add the benefit. You may find that the reason utilization has been low in the past was due to lack of awareness and lack of perceived need. With clear, simple education, employees may actually be far more willing to use telehealth solutions than the current low utilization averages would suggest.
If you have telehealth solutions, we strongly encourage you to consider promoting it to your workforce. Be sure to check first to confirm that your healthcare vendor providing telehealth has the proper protocol in place for handling a virus like this. Diligence and employee communication can help ensure that the telehealth vendor doesn’t over-promise and under-deliver. But in the current environment, the need for using telehealth as an alternative to accessing healthcare has certainly materialized, so now is the time to make sure employees know that telehealth is available and has an important-potentially critical-role to play in keeping them, their families, and their communities safe and healthy.
Having your employees understand their health plan is important so that they truly value the benefit and can feel confident they are getting the most out of their employee benefit plans you offer. The experienced team at MY-Employee Benefits Plus is here to help. We work with our clients to put in place not only valuable solutions but also effective and reinforced employee benefit plan education to reinforce their decision and confidence that made you their employer of choice. Let’s start a conversation that will lead your employees to know, like, understand and ultimately have valued, positive experiences while using their employee benefits.