The Growing Trend of Telemedicine


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We will always have a need for high quality, accessible health care provided by knowledgeable and compassionate physicians and care providers. What is changing, however, is access to such care. There is not only an increase in the number of available telemedicine, or virtual providers entering the health care marketplace, but an increase in adoption of such services, as tech-savvy consumers are becoming more comfortable with the idea of a virtual doctor’s visit conducted via video conference. According to HIS, an information and analytics firm, cumulative annual growth of video consultations between primary care providers and their patients is expected to crease by nearly 25 percent a year over the next five years to 5.4 million by 2020.

As a benefit to employees and health plan members, telemedicine services provide convenient access to quality health care providers and physician consultations, especially for minor ailments, mental health services, dermatology, and smoking cessation services. Rather than waiting for a doctor’s office appointment, which may book weeks or even months in advance, or seeking care at a costly urgent care center, patients can schedule a virtual consultation, typically within a short window, and receive more immediate and cost-efficient advice and care.

In addition, based on a study conducted by the journal Telemedicine and eHealth, telemedicine services have been proven to reduce:

  • Emergency room visits
  • Hospital admissions and readmissions
  • Average lengths of stay
  • Mortality rates

The study aimed to analyze the benefits of telemedicine services specifically for patients with three chronic conditions: congestive heart failure (CHF), stroke, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

As a benefit to the employer, providing convenient access to physician care helps ensure members are diagnosed for risk factors that, if left untreated, could result in a catastrophic event and high dollar claims in the future. According to Towers Watson, telemedicine services could save employers more than $6 billion a year in health care costs. To maximize savings, a health plan population would need to use telemedicine services exclusively in place of in-person doctor’s office visits, urgent care visits, and emergency room care. However, telemedicine services have perhaps been most efficiently utilized by employers as part of a broader and fully integrated population health management solution that includes other interventions across the care continuum such as online wellness tools, onsite/near-site clinics, disease management services, and wellness coaching. Such a platform ensures at risk members are more quickly identified and provided with appropriate care, given their unique needs and risk factors.

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