In recent years, telemedicine has become more and more important as a care platform. Defined as “practicing medicine using technology to deliver care at a distance, with a physician in one location and a patient at a distant site” (The American Academy of Family Physicians), it’s primary conducted via online “virtual visits” that connect clinicians with patients via webcams and smartphones.
Telemedicine and its benefits
In addressing employee concerns around telemedicine, it's helpful to be armed with information that supports the wealth of benefits it offers for providers, patients, and employers. Eden Health recently presented a webinar, “Telemedicine Demystified,” that shows how companies can get the most out of this virtual lifeline. In researching this presentation, we uncovered some remarkable facts about telemedicine:
- 75-80% of all doctor urgent care and ER visits can be handled safely virtually
- On average, a telemedicine visit costs only 1/3 of the equivalent in-person visit
- Collectively, US employers could save $6 billion by offering a telemedicine solution to employees
- 43-70% of clinicians would be happy to use telemedicine to fill in gaps in the care that they deliver
- Thanks to telepsychiatry, the length of stay for patients in ERs waiting to be discharged to inpatient treatment declined from 48 hours to 22.5 hours. (alt statistic) In North Carolina, use of telepsychiatry has reduced the time patients spend in hospital ERs as well as the likelihood of their returning for treatment.
And in the current situation the world is facing with coronavirus (COVID-19), telemedicine can provide a safe alternative for virtual symptom checking and treatment, at-home testing, and confirmation an employee can return to the worksite. In fact, telemedicine solutions can even provide crucial support for workplace protocols, employee safety, symptom triage, and treatment as businesses reopen and remain productive. For instance, Eden Health’s COVID-19 solution uses telemedicine and online chat to provide safe, remote guidance to employers and their people, including:
- Daily screening of employees before they leave home
- Instruction for at-home PCR swab testing
- Virtual triage and treatment
- Employer guidance from a dedicated Medical Director
Addressing Common Employee Concerns
Yet in spite of telemedicine’s numerous advantages and benefits, many employees are reluctant to embrace—or even try—this versatile and economical care platform. Here are a few common employee concerns about telemedicine along with facts you can share to encourage trial and adoption.
1) “Is telemedicine really worthwhile?”
Telemedicine can save employees time in scheduling doctor’s visits, avoiding trips to urgent care, and renewing medications. Since online visits typically cost about 1/3 the amount of an in-person visit, telemedicine can also save employees money. For primary care, it can offer patients even more personalized service, since the followup care a provider can offer is just as important as the initial treatment or diagnosis. As noted in the sidebar, telemedicine is also crucial in safely administering care during the COVID-19 pandemic.
2) “Will my information be kept secure?”
As with any other medical provider, those offering telemedicine solutions must administer HIPPA compliance. Even when delivering care remotely, it is still the provider’s responsibility to keep a patient’s medical and psychiatric records private and secure.
3) “How can a doctor diagnose me without an in-office exam?”
As much as 75-80% of all visits to a clinician are for simple diagnoses. These can safely be handled online, saving employees a costly visit to urgent care or the ER. In such cases, according to Eden Health’s physicians, an in-person visit wouldn’t alter the diagnosis or supply additional information that might change treatment. Still, to ensure optimum patient health and safety, clinicians at Eden Health take a conservative approach to treatments: if there are any uncertainties regarding a case, they have a network of specialists to consult with, and they can always ask to see the patient in person for a more thorough exam if needed
4) “Isn’t it hard to sign up and access the telemedicine portal?”
This may be a legitimate concern for employees, as not all telemedicine solutions are created equal. Eden Health’s mobile app, which includes telemedicine, has high rates of user engagement (66% of total employee population) and patient satisfaction ratings (4.95 out of 5 stars). But because employees will want to use something that’s intuitive and easy to navigate, companies should consider the user experience when searching for the best telemedicine solution. Complicated signup processes or difficult to use applications can lead to a poor patient experience and underutilization of the solution.
For purposes of evaluation and future employee training, HR departments should test the signup process and the solution itself prior to implementation. Once a telemedicine solution is adopted, HR should remind employees that this effective solution exists to address their healthcare needs, leading to optimal employee engagement.
To learn more about how telemedicine can be a valuable lifeline, view Eden Health's webinar. Content shared in the webinar addresses even more employee concerns about telemedicine and shows you what to look for in a quality telemedicine provider. You’ll see how telemedicine can be more than a simple communications tool and become a critical part of the integrated care spectrum. It’s a benefit no employee should be without, especially now.