Improved Hiring, Better Retention, Happier Healthier Employees … and You Just Saved Money

by Paul G. Flatley, DO, FACEP, Direct2MD

“The doctor can see you now.” These words have taken on a significant change in meaning with the advent of telemedicine. While telemedicine has been present for more than 20 years in some capacity, it has only been in the last five years that telemedicine has gained attention on the healthcare delivery stage.

For those of you who have experienced telemedicine as a patient, the advantages over traditional office-based appointments may be obvious. No travel time, no long wait times, no additional germ exposures, and the convenience of doing this from your personal smart phone or computer, no matter where you are.

Often missed in the excitement over this new platform to receive healthcare are the benefits directly to the small-business owner. Many telemedicine plans are now offered directly to the employer as an employee-sponsored benefit. Typically, for a per-member, per-month (PMPM) price structure, employers can now offer a healthcare benefit directly to their employees. When offered to employees that do not have health coverage in any other capacity, the savings can be tremendous. Until now, the only option for that patient would be an urgent care or emergency department visit. With ED visit costs averaging $2,700 per visit, this can be, and often is, financially devastating. While ED visits cannot always be avoided, I can tell you from having worked 20 years in the emergency department as a physician, as many as 40 percent of these visits could have been handled via telemedicine. For those patients fortunate enough to have comprehensive medical coverage, the benefits of having a telemedicine option are still significant. Medical insurance may relieve a significant amount of the financial burden of healthcare, provided the deductible is met; however, it does nothing to relieve the other inconveniences of making an appointment, such as driving times, wait times and exposures.

So, what does a telemedicine platform do for the employer subsidizing this benefit? The financial benefits can be huge and can have a significant impact on a business owner’s bottom line. First and foremost, simply offering a benefit of telemedicine can and does improve both hiring and retention. Business owners experience increased productivity and decreased absenteeism as their employees are not required to miss work for minor medical needs like minor illness, medication refills, or simply to have a consultation. There can be huge savings for companies depending on the type of insurance plan they offer. Self-insured companies can often avoid the enormous emergency department costs, again at around $2,700 on average, when their employees use telemedicine, which is more affordable and far more convenient.

While telemedicine is new to some and the idea of “seeing” your physician on your smart phone might feel, at the very least, unconventional, it is here to stay. More and more companies are adding this level of healthcare benefit to attract and retain quality employees. Employees enjoy convenient access to affordable care, employers celebrate happier and healthier employees, and with great adoption, telemedicine any questions.

Paul Flatley, DO, FACEP, is with Direct2MD.

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