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The Evolution of Telehealth – Healthcare On-Demand

April 25th, 2018

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From House Calls to Virtual Calls

The emergence of Telehealth began with the house call, doctors paying visits to patients in their home who were too sick or injured to seek medical attention from a designated facility. While an in-home visit provides a convenience, the downside is care may not be provided in a timely manner.

Home visits evolved to urgent care facilities, where patients could see a doctor without an appointment, often 24/7, but which also came with potentially long wait times and possible repeat visits if additional testing or specialists were needed.

Illness and injury are not something people plan and today’s busy schedules created a need for more immediate diagnosis and care. These factors coupled with access to advanced technology play a huge role in the birth of Telehealth.

Statistics show that about 90% of patients under the age of 65 have a smartphone, and over two-thirds are currently using, or are interested in accessing technology to assist with their healthcare experience.

With phone apps able to track your movement, caloric intake, sleep habits as well as give you access to lab results, appointment information, current medications and more, the emergence of Telehealth takes healthcare tracking, cost management, and patient/physician interaction to the next level.

With over 220 Telehealth companies operating today, Telehealth is the house call for the 21st Century.

Telehealth enhances healthcare by incorporating technology to deliver more timely and helpful services, allowing providers to see more patients, catch ailments early, and streamline information for patients to the right healthcare specialists.

Telehealth encompasses a wide range of diagnosis and management, education, and other related fields of health care, including:

  • Dentistry
  • Counseling
  • Physical and occupational therapy
  • Home health
  • Chronic disease monitoring and management
  • Disaster management
  • Consumer and professional education

Easy Access

With Telehealth, healthcare coverage is accessible 24/7 from virtually anywhere. Time is valuable, and busy schedules may delay those with health issues from seeing their doctor, often causing issues to escalate into worsening conditions.

A recent study found the average patient can wait up to 24 days to see a doctor in person. A Telehealth conversation over facetime, skype, etc., can be as effective as an in-person meeting.

Telehealth cuts down that waiting time drastically, all without leaving the couch. Telehealth can lead to less time missed at work, less time stuck in traffic, less time feeling sick. For employees in rural areas, Telehealth provides more immediate access to doctors and specialists.

Overall Savings

Over 80% of medical costs in the United States are driven by chronic disease due in part to the overall diagnosing of the medical ailment. With the streamlined process of Telehealth, patients can opt for a second opinion. Statics show second opinions may lead to a change in treatment approximately 75% of the time, essentially equating to a correction of two misdiagnoses per hour. The American Hospital Association estimates an overall savings of 11% when using a Telehealth platform, and have also seen a reduction in surgeries by 37% by its users.

Employees benefit not just in diagnosis and treatment but also cost. Members utilizing Telehealth see an average savings of $150 on a Primary Care office visit and over $2,200 for a non-urgent Emergency Room Visit.

In addition to benefitting employees, Telehealth benefits employers as well, decreasing claim costs to the employer’s group healthcare plan, reduction in time spent on paperwork, and higher employee satisfaction.

Technology within the health industry continues to evolve. If your company is not currently providing Telehealth, you could be missing out on a multitude of benefits. In fact, the number of patients utilizing telehealth services is expected to increase to 7 million in 2018. Will you be one of them?

For more information on Telehealth benefits and implementation for your company, contact our Employee Benefits advisors.

Brett Struiksma

Employee Benefits Consultant

Brett takes a strategic approach when assisting his clients navigate compliance and health insurance reform, providing comprehensive analysis and creative plan design for optimal benefit plan communication and compliance.

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