Let’s imagine you’re sick. Your face is pounding, and it’s impossible to breathe through your nose. You have mucus running down the back of your throat with the steady consistency of the Mississippi River. You know you’ve got a sinus infection. But the last thing you want to do is leave your house. Much less go to the consortium of disease known as a hospital.
Luckily for you, it’s 2018, and the future is now. You no longer have to be in the same physical space as your doctor, to receive treatment. Now, you can pick up the phone, and in a few minutes, speak to a real physician. This is the power of telehealth. But what is telehealth? Keep reading to learn what it is, how it can benefit your business, and some of the negatives telehealth can bring to your organization.
What is Telehealth?
Telehealth, according to BenefitsPro, is the remote delivery of healthcare services and clinical information using the internet, wireless, satellite, and telephone technology. Put simply; telehealth is seeing a doctor or nurse via technology. While telemedicine has been around for several years, it’s still growing in utilization.
A study by the National Business Group on Health found that 96 percent of large employers now offer some level of telehealth benefits. Similarly, one telemedicine firm, Teladoc, saw a total increase of 54 percent in 2017. More people are employing telehealth, but what advantages does this technology offer?
How Does it Support Your Business?
There is a myriad of reasons telemedicine can benefit your firm. And as the surrounding technology is upgraded, these advantages are only likely to grow.
1. Increased Quality of Care
One of the primary advantages of telehealth is a potential increase in the quality of medical care. This form of healthcare can drastically reduce patient wait time. Similarly, because you don’t have to visit a physical doctor’s office, you save time commuting to your appointment.
According to BenefitsPro, speaking to a nurse typically takes two minutes from the phone. Similarly, typical responses from doctors occur within hours. Timeliness of care is crucial to a better total quality of patient care.
2. More Convenient and Broader Access
Telehealth can help democratize healthcare for those who don’t have access to top-level providers. For example, if your business is in a geographically remote area, your employees may not live near high-quality specialists. So, if an employee needs to see a nutritionist, for example, but none are in your area, telehealth can eliminate this geographical barrier.
And in the U.S., there is a real shortage of specialists for those residing in rural areas of the country. For every 100,000 rural patients, there are only 43 specialists available.
A telemedicine system can connect your staff to a global network with access to resources and services that would be unavailable under a traditional health plan. Similarly, it’s easy to see how convenient telehealth is compared to the conventional healthcare service model.
You can skip scheduling and commuting to an appointment, and instead jump straight into seeing a physician. Also, a recent Cisco survey found more and more people don’t need a face-to-face meeting. This study discovered 74 percent of patients prefer easy access to healthcare services over in-person interactions with providers.
3. Healthier Workforce
One of the biggest perks of telemedicine is the effect it can have on your staff. Telehealth can promote a healthier, less-stressed workforce. For starters, telemedicine can help alleviate stress caused by taking time off work for appointments. Nine in 10 Americans stated they would cancel or reschedule a preventive care appointment due to workplace pressures.
Also, as previously stated, telehealth dramatically improves the timeliness of care. And this timeliness is more invaluable than you may realize. One study demonstrated telemedicine patients score lower for depression, anxiety, stress, and have 38 percent fewer hospital admissions.
Additionally, a strength of telemedicine lies in its ability to produce an earlier diagnosis than would otherwise be possible. The quicker you diagnose an illness, the quicker you can treat said illness. Early diagnosis is especially vital for those with chronic conditions. These conditions are typically the most expensive illnesses to treat. But frequent monitoring, that’s possible through telehealth, can reduce hospital visits, for those with chronic diseases, by 50 percent.
4. Cost Savings
Telehealth can save both your business and your employees’ money. As mentioned above telemedicine is excellent for treating chronic medical conditions. And this treatment is essential because of the high costs associated with chronic illness. Diagnosing and managing chronic conditions consumes 84 percent of healthcare dollars in the U.S. alone. So, helping employees with these conditions should be a priority for every business.
Another way telehealth saves money is through a reduction in costs and time associated with commuting to an appointment. Your employees don’t have to pay travel costs to get to their appointment. Similarly, these employees don’t have to take as much time off from work if their appointment is over the phone.
Telemedicine further saves money for both employers and employees by reducing the number of physical doctor’s visits. Without telehealth, under a traditional PPO, your employees would need to see a generalist and get referred before finally seeing the specialist. Now after one simple call, your employees can get a referral to a variety of specialists.
Telehealth further saves on physical doctor’s visits by reducing unnecessary urgent care and emergency room visits. Before your employees go to an ER, they can visit a doctor or nurse on the phone and determine whether an ER visit is actually necessary.
Overall, telemedicine can be an enormous money saver for employers. Some experts, according to BenefitsPro, have determined that telehealth visits for the most common health conditions save employers an average of $472 per episode of care. Also, the American Hospital Association reported similar savings of 11 percent in costs for a telemedicine program.
In 2018 mobile technology is more ubiquitous than its ever been. Ninety percent of adults under the age of 65 have smartphones today. Now that the infrastructure exists, employers can use mobile technology to drive engagement and utilization of telehealth.
So, the next time you have a torrent of mucus flowing out of your body, remember you don’t have to venture out into the real world. Just use your telehealth’s number and call a doctor, maybe.