September 17, 2015 | General
Telehealth continues to enjoy a surge of support from both the patients who use it and the employers who rely on having a healthy workforce at their disposal. By making it more convenient and affordable to access high-quality care – where and when patients need it – telehealth enables individuals to proactively manage their care in the way that best suits them, and often times costs far less versus an in-person visit.
New research supports the fact that telehealth consultations are far more affordable, ranging from $40-$50 per visit versus as much as $176 for an in-person appointment. The most common illness that patients sought care for through telemedicine was sinusitis, with 20 percent diagnosed with that illness, and cold/flu/pertussis the next most common at 12 percent. In addition, providers were able to resolve a patient’s issues 83 percent of the time.
The ability to maintain a high level of quality of care for patients can be greatly impacted by many factors. Practitioner and clinician scarcity, increasing demand for specialists and the ever-evolving quality of care policies all contribute to the high costs associated with providing medical care. Implementing a flexible telehealth solution, with proven costs savings, affords health care organizations the control to meet operational objectives while increasing the quality of care measures. Similarly, it helps individuals exercise better control over their health by accessing quality health care more quickly, potentially curbing simple ailments before they become costlier illnesses.
While a healthy workforce is critical for business, so, too is adoption by businesses. Fortunately, new research shows that 2016 will be an even stronger year for telehealth adoption, with a significant uptick in companies offering it to employees. Conducted by the National Business Group on Health (NBGH), a nonprofit association of 425 U.S. employers, the survey found that about 74 percent of U.S. employers plan to offer it to employees in 2016. That number was at less than 50 percent for 2015, but despite the increase, increased adoption and streamlining policy to improve access to telehealth services is still needed.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention noted that in 2011, 136 million people were seen in an ER; many of those visits could have been replaced with a $50 telemedicine consultation. In addition, researchers at the University of Rochester found that 28% of the visits at one pediatric emergency room involved ailments such as ear infections or sore throats that could be diagnosed over the phone. With the obvious benefit to employees in the form of accessible, on-the-spot care – and the lower costs to employers who provide access to those visits – the time for telehealth is now, both for maintaining a healthy workforce and eliminating the reliance on costly, unnecessary visits to emergency rooms and other brick-and-mortar healthcare institutions.