Need to Reduce Healthcare Costs? Virtual Care May Be The Answer

Posted by Seraine Page on Mon, Oct, 14, 2019

TelemedinceIt’s no secret the cost of healthcare is going up.

Unfortunately, healthcare benefit costs are expected to continue to rise as much as $15,000 per employee.

While healthcare benefits are one of the most important benefits for employees, it’s also one of the most expensive ones for employers. If your company is looking to increase healthcare savings, virtual care is an option to consider.

Virtual care is one way to keep the healthcare benefit option available while also saving time and money. It’s convenient, fast, and just as efficient as an in-office visit.

The adoption of virtual care can save employers big money, too.

Here we take a look at the benefits of offering virtual care as a healthcare option.

What is Virtual Care?

Virtual healthcare, also known as telemedicine, allows nurses and doctors to communicate and treat patients without seeing them in the office. For any health conditions that don’t require a hands-on examination, patients can opt for telemedicine over an office visit.

Telemedicine services may include:

  • Mental health therapy
  • Review of lab results
  • Medication discussions
  • Follow-ups after appointments
  • Post-surgery monitoring
  • Responding to patient questions

The biggest benefits include faster access to treatment and it’s often less costly than onsite visits or follow-up appointments that might otherwise take place in the provider’s office, ER, or urgent care.

The best perk for some people? It’s possible to get a diagnosis and have a prescription called in without ever having to leave home while feeling crummy.

The Big Benefits of Virtual Care

Everyone wins in the workplace when virtual care options are used. It offers an opportunity for sick workers to use their health benefits from the comfort of their own home. For employers, it’s a great way to offer cost-effective healthcare.

Here’s a look at the benefits of virtual care for both employers and employees:

For Employers

Healthcare isn’t cheap. With rising costs, it’s smart for employers to look at ways to save on healthcare. In fact, 64% of employers believe virtual care will have a significant positive impact on healthcare costs.

Here are a few reasons to consider an insurance plan that offers virtual care:

  • Lower premium costs — Out-of-pocket costs and fewer physical office visits mean lower rates.

  • Encourages health check-ups — Employees can schedule their virtual care visits any time before or after work or even during lunch breaks. It’s less of an inconvenience to set up the appointments that they need anyway for optimum health.

  • Employees get help sooner — Employees have immediate 24/7 access to seek treatment sooner and spend less time away from the office for doctor’s visits, recovery time, etc.

For Employees

A big perk of having access to virtual care is the time and money saved by having healthcare access whenever and wherever an employee needs it. For appointments that don’t need a physical examination, this can be an ideal option to get treatment sooner.

Other benefits of virtual care:

  • Manage chronic pain — Chronic health issues require a lot of doctor's office visits. Telemedicine offers an easy way for patients to adjust meds and get follow-up instructions for their conditions.

  • Schedule with ease — Visits and therapy sessions are set up around a patient’s schedule, not necessarily the doctor’s office jam-packed schedule that may not have an opening for months.

  • Rest when needed — Most ill patients need rest. Virtual care allows patients to rest instead of traveling to the doctor’s office.

  • Get treatment sooner — In some cases it’s possible to get treatment and medications sooner than waiting for an in-office appointment.

  • Have worrisome symptoms inspected — Virtual care can get non-critical medical questions answered without an in-person appointment.

Barriers to Virtual Care

Studies show most employees aren’t using their virtual care benefit. One study found that only 3% of employees at major companies use their virtual care benefits. Another found that only 8% signed up when the programs were made available.

Reasons for not using may include:

  • Not aware of the benefit
  • Forget about the benefit when it’s needed
  • Unsure if quality of virtual care is as good as in-person care

Part of the lack of use by employees could be due to “out of sight, out of mind” making it just another forgotten benefit. For HR personnel, sending out friendly reminders of a virtual care benefit — like right before cold and flu season — can increase the chances of employees using it.

The Future of Virtual Care

With the increasing expansion of advanced technology, telemedicine can reach into most households these days. The majority of Americans have internet access and smartphones to support virtual care opportunities.

Companies are expanding virtual care service offerings, but will also need to increase employee buy-in for the most success and benefit.

Those companies that consistently educate their employees and support the use of virtual care options will have a larger employee buy-in — and larger savings — in the long haul.

As of last year, 70% of major companies offered virtual care services to their employees in the U.S. Most are planning on expanding their programs in the next few years as the efficiency and effectiveness of virtual care is revealed.

One report found that American employers as a whole could save up to $6 billion per year if they offered telemedicine to their employees.

Thanks to the convenience of virtual care, once someone takes advantage of it, they are likely to use it again. It just comes down to getting employees to take that initial step as the key to maximizing the benefit for all.

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Topics: Healthy Workplaces


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