As technology’s evolved, so has people’s ability to overcome the traditional communication barriers of time and distance. The practice of telemedicine is a step forward in the health care industry to use telecommunications to bridge the gap of time, distance and affordability to reach patients in need of medical attention.
“It’s not convenient for anybody to try to see a doctor during the workday when they are sick,” says P.J. Insana, a partner at Britton Gallagher. “The time and effort it takes to build a quality relationship with your doctor is hard to find. Everyone is looking for more efficient ways to get things done.”
Telemedicine facilitates real-time interaction between a doctor and patient, wherever the patient or patient’s family is located. Live video, patient data transfer and audio are a few of the elements used to open this dialogue and determine the appropriate course of action.
Smart Business spoke with Insana about the advantages of telemedicine and how it can strengthen the relationship between doctor and patient.
What are the key advantages of the telemedicine approach?
Telemedicine eliminates the need to go to a doctor’s office where you or your children can come in contact with others who are sick. Consumers have become more used to on-demand access to services and products, making this technology perfect for today’s busy families. You are able to consult with a licensed physician in your state 24/7, 365 days a year who can diagnose and prescribe medications.
The average wait time from the initial phone call to the time you speak with a doctor is 14 minutes. This compares favorably to the time it often takes for a typical doctor’s appointment.
From a cost savings perspective, there are major advantages from the employer and employee sides. Let’s say you lose four hours of productivity from an employee who follows the traditional doctor visit process — that’s a loss of $100 for an employee who makes $25 an hour. There is also the cost of the doctor’s visit, which is anywhere from $131 to see a primary care physician to nearly $1,500 for a visit to the emergency room.
Studies show that many admissions to the ER are not for life-threatening problems. With telemedicine, there are no co-pays for each consultation and no limitations on use. This allows companies to reduce claims expenditure and drive down the overall cost of medical coverage. In addition, physicians will automatically prescribe a generic drug unless told otherwise.
How do you overcome the issue of distance?
There is an absolute shift in where the consumer is trying to spend their time and money. Some people were skittish about online banking at first, but as the service has evolved, many of those fears have eased and that on-demand access is expected as part of the bank’s services. Physicians who use telemedicine say they prefer it because they can spend more time with the patient face-to-face or over the phone.
Telemedicine is designed to treat ailments such as cold and flu symptoms, ear infections and congestion or sinus problems.
The opportunity to meet with a doctor in person is still available, but telemedicine has proven to be an effective alternative.
What’s the best way to incorporate telemedicine into your business?
One option is to fully implement the program and cover all the costs for employees. Treat it as a value-add to bolster your benefits package because you’re confident employees will use it.
You can also offer to pay a portion of it or ask employees to pay for it and make it strictly voluntary. Even if you go with full implementation, you’re not forcing participation by those who prefer the traditional method of meeting with their doctor.
The goal is to create a culture that shows you are thinking about employees and trying to reduce costs, both for employees and your business.
The only cost is the amount of time you put into communicating this offering to employees. Other than that, it’s a small fee to provide the service each month. As with any new offering, success hinges on your commitment to educate and communicate to employees about the product or service and the benefits it provides. ●
Insights Employee Benefits/Risk Management is brought to you by Britton Gallagher