These days, more and more companies are offering various telehealth solutions for their employees. In fact, a 2017 National Business Group on Health survey saw that telehealth offerings by employers were becoming nearly universal: It’s estimated that 96 percent of employers plan to offer telehealth services to employees at some point this year.However, with 220+ companies offering some type of telehealth service, selecting the right solution for your employees is a daunting process, to say the least. Here are some things to keep in mind when evaluating telehealth solutions.
First, let’s take a look at what “telehealth” actually includes. In general, telehealth describes a wide range of diagnosis and management, education and other healthcare fields such as (but not limited to):
- Physical and occupational therapy
- Home health
- Chronic disease monitoring and management
- Disaster management
- Consumer and professional education
There are generally four types of telehealth applications. Here’s how the Center for Connected Health Policy describes them:
Live video: Live, two-way interaction between a person (patient, caregiver, or provider) and a provider using audiovisual telecommunications technology. This can typically be used in place of an in-person visit for both consultative and diagnostics and treatment services.
Store-and-forward: Transmission of recorded health history (for example, digital images such as x-rays and photos) through a secure electronic communications system to a practitioner who uses the information to evaluate the case or provide care outside of a real-time or live interaction.
Remote patient monitoring: Personal health and medical data collection from an individual in one location via electronic communication technologies, which is transmitted to a provider in a different location for use in care and related support. This type of service allows a provider to continue to track healthcare data for a patient once released to home or a care facility, reducing readmission rates.
Mobile health (mHealth): Health care and public health practice and education supported by mobile communication devices such as cell phones and tablets. Applications can range from targeted text messages that promote healthy behavior to wide-scale alerts about disease outbreaks, to name a few examples.
In general, telehealth solutions are helpful because they expand patient access to great care while also improving patient outcomes and satisfaction.
Telehealth is also a win for companies and employees alike. For example, if an employee comes down with a minor illness when the doctor’s office is closed, or the employee doesn’t have a primary care physician, telehealth is an alternative to an urgent care facility or the ER. This means less time away from work as well as lower costs for the employee and company.
EVALUATING TELEHEALTH SOLUTIONS
Ready to take a look at various telehealth solutions to see which one(s) might be a fit for your company? Here are some things to keep in mind.
Costs: Before insurance, a primary care doctor visit can cost $110 - with costs rising for urgent care ($150) and ER ($865) visits. Often times, many of these visits could have been addressed via telehealth. Sometimes these in-person costs are covered by insurers - which may have an impact on future plan costs - or worse, employees are stuck covering this large expense. When evaluating telehealth solutions, be sure to ask how they charge per employee, what the employee responsibility would be, and whether they work with your company’s existing insurance plan. You’ll want to understand the financial impact for both your company as well as employees - if costs are too high for employees, they won’t use the service and your telehealth investment will be underutilized.
Clinician interaction: The relationship between clinician and patient is critical for ensuring a positive experience and ongoing usage of the telehealth platform. Make sure to find out how clinicians interact with patients - is it through live chat, video or email? Is it an actual clinician or will employees be sent to a bot first (which can be extremely off-putting for someone who isn’t feeling well)? Will it be the same provider each and every time an employee accesses the service, so they can keep track of the employee’s care and ensure the employee feels well taken care of?
Employee engagement: With only 20 percent of employees currently reporting telehealth utilization rates of 8 percent or higher, it’s clear that employee satisfaction and engagement are critical for ensuring a strong ROI. One thing that separates telehealth vendors from true partners is the support they provide in making employees aware of the service. Ask what their typical utilization rates are for companies of various sizes, as well as what programs they have in place to encourage employee participation. You’ll want to ask yourself, do they have a full program and materials in place, or will investing in this solution create more work for you and your team?
By asking these questions, you’re on your way to selecting a telehealth solution that can help improve employee health, satisfaction and engagement.
Want to learn more? Feel free to reach out to the Eden Health team today!