The concern for the novel coronavirus COVID-19 continues to grow across the U.S. and Michigan. As an employer, it’s important to help keep your workforce safe and healthy. One way to do this is to promote the use of virtual care among employees, which has multiple benefits for both employees and the company.
Since the inception of telemedicine, it has grown significantly in popularity. Both individuals and employers are recognizing the convenience and cost-savings potentially associated with this type of care. In fact, in Michigan, telemedicine use within the midsized employer segment increased from 20% to 38% in 2016, according to Marsh & McLennan’s 13 annual Southeast Michigan Mid-Market Group Benefits Survey.
When your employees are sick, the expenses quickly add up from medical claims to lost productivity and absenteeism. Telemedicine offers your employees increased convenience and decreased costs, can benefit your bottom line and helps prevent the spread of sickness.
Prevent the spread of infections
Priority Health recommends using virtual care for minor symptoms. Virtual care allows employees to see a doctor without having to leave home and is an alternative to urgent care or the ER. Both urgent care and ER locations can become crowded during peak illness periods and are generally more expensive per visit. Virtual care also is a good way to help prevent the spread of infections like COVID-19 and influenza. Check with your company’s health insurance provider to see if they offer virtual care.
Benefits of telemedicine
Telemedicine brings the doctor right to your employees when they need it. They can discuss their symptoms and get professional care at a time and place that works best for them, whether that’s from their bed, couch or even office desk. This eliminates time wasted driving to and from a doctor’s office, sitting in a waiting room or arranging for childcare during an appointment.
Another benefit of telemedicine is that it is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Before telemedicine, if your employee or their dependents started to feel unwell during the middle of the night, the only option was to visit the emergency room. Now, by incorporating telemedicine services into your benefits package, you can give them the peace of mind that comes with receiving care without the hefty emergency room price.
This approach allows your employees to focus on what’s important: getting better.
Fighting back against rising costs
Telemedicine has the potential to save companies more than $6 billion a year across the U.S., according to a 2014 analysis by global professional services company Willis Towers Watson.
In an increasingly mobile and connected world, a more nimble approach to health care is needed and employers are getting on board. Telemedicine allows your employees and their dependents to have a “face-to-face” interaction with a doctor, but in a way that’s economical from both a cost and time standpoint.
The Willis Towers Watson study found effective use of current telemedicine technologies could displace 15% of office visits, 15% of emergency room visits and 37% of urgent care visits.
Having around the clock access to care means employees won’t seek urgent care or visit the emergency room for non-emergent conditions, which prevents expensive co-pays for them and controls health care costs for you.
Virtual care accessibility
When it comes to deciding on a company health plan, make sure to opt for one that includes telemedicine. Then your employees can access virtual care by navigating an app or placing a phone call. The only equipment required is an internet connection and a video-enabled device.
For example, Priority Health partners with Spectrum Health to offer virtual care through the Spectrum Health Now app to all commercial members 24 hours a day, seven days a week, including holidays, for as little as $0 per visit. Members can have a video visit, or an eVisit, with a Michigan-based, board-certified physician and all patient information is sent back to the member’s primary care physician for a complete medical record. Prescriptions even can be called in to a local pharmacy. Priority Health’s member app makes it easy to schedule a video visit or to fill out an eVisit form for same-day care, if a video visit isn’t necessary. Spectrum Health Now provides health care when — and where — a patient needs it.
Telemedicine visits are great for the following issues:
Bites and stings
Cough, cold and flu
Rash and hives
Sprains and strains
Connecting to an expert online can help people avoid sick days, get back to work quickly and prevent an illness from getting worse or spreading to others. Ask your health plan if virtual care is an option for your business.
Brian McLane has more than 15 years of experience in health care. As the senior director of product solutions at Priority Health, he is responsible for designing and managing health care products to meet the needs of employers and employees.