Virtual care, or telemedicine, is rapidly growing in health care because it is convenient, time-efficient and affordable for many businesses.
According to the American Telemedicine Association, more than half of all U.S. hospitals currently have a telemedicine program and by 2017, about 70 percent of employer’s plans will offer telemedicine services as an employee benefit.
Kandi Lannen, director of wellness for Priority Health, said virtual visits can be used for mild symptoms on the weekends or after a doctor’s office has closed. Emergency room visits can be expensive and not always the right place for treatment, while urgent care clinics often have long waits.
Virtual care services are offered through hospital groups or your health insurance plan, and will save your employee’s time and money and allow them to see a doctor from the comfort of their home. For employees and their sick children, it may be best to stay home to prevent getting worse and spreading illness to coworkers or peers. Virtual care can be used for non-emergencies such as: Fevers, cold and flu, respiratory infections, sinus infections, sore throats, mild sprains and allergies. If symptoms are more urgent, seek immediate in-person care.
Lannen suggests four reasons why a virtual visit may work for you and your employees.
Professional Health Care Access Anytime : According to the Physician Trends 2016 Report, 57 percent of primary care physicians are open to holding appointments with patients via phone or video. Virtual care provides quick access to board-certified doctors for people who need care after hours or on weekends, who may live in rural areas or are traveling. Employees can receive care anytime, and have access to health professionals online or over the phone. Details of your virtual visit will be shared with your primary care provider for future reference.
Cost-Effective: While virtual visits don’t replace the sometimes necessary trip to the emergency room or urgent care, they are the most effective for mild symptoms since virtual visits typically cost less. For example, an emergency room visit for strep throat could be as high as $740, while a virtual visit would cost around $45 or less if your health plan offers telemedicine coverage.
No Waiting Rooms: A visit to the emergency room or urgent care clinic for a mild condition could mean sitting in a crowded waiting room for hours. Getting care from a doctor without having to leave the house is convenient, especially for busy parents who may have sick children. The process is safe, secure and follows traditional privacy practices covered in your primary care provider’s office. Plus it typically only takes about 15 minutes from the time you request a virtual visit until you’re speaking with a doctor.
Coordinated Care: With February being American Heart Month, employees with heart disease can use virtual visits, around the clock care, to help manage their condition. The virtual doctor will send electronic records of the visit directly to your employee’s primary care doctor to ensure all care is documented. In addition, there are now digital thermometers and blood pressure monitors that can help with short term diagnosing, management and tracking of chronic conditions.