Employee health may never be as top of mind as it is today. As a result of COVID-19, employees find themselves in the midst of some very challenging times. One of the most pressing concerns is how to receive healthcare when travel and face-to-face interactions are so heavily restricted. How do we get the right care to those in need without exposing them and others to undue risk?
While the modernization of healthcare has evolved slowly in the past few years, COVID-19 has fueled the rapid creation and adoption of a cutting-edge practice, telemedicine.
Rising Consumer Expectations Meet a Tipping Point
While COVID-19 has been the catalyst to move telemedicine rapidly forward, the shift to virtual healthcare was already being developed in response to an increasingly digital-first society.
Healthcare participants have come to expect the same level of “customer service” and instant satisfaction they receive from commercial brands, meanwhile employers have realized offering more patient-centric benefit packages is an advantage – not just to improve employee wellness, but increase their competitive advantage to retain top talent.
What is Telemedicine?
Telemedicine is the practice of connecting patients to providers remotely to enable care when the patient and doctor are not physically present in the same location. HIPAA-compliant video-conferencing tools, data storage and transmission ensure the same level of confidentiality as traditional doctor visits.
While the popularity of telemedicine services has continued to climb steadily since its inception, congress recently loosened restrictions on telemedicine
as a means of safely treating patients while enacting protective measures to contain the recent spread of COVID-19.
What Types of Care Work Best for Telemedicine?
Many types of care fit well into the telemedicine model, primarily those requiring the patient to self-report symptoms, or those which can be assessed visually. Examples include:
Family medicine: Flu, sinus infections, and stomachaches
Dermatology: Skin conditions including acne, eczema, psoriasis, and rashes
Pediatrics: Flu, pink eye, and rashes
Mental health: Remote sessions with a therapist or psychiatrist
Wellness & prevention: Nutrition, back care, and sexual health
How It Works
Industry leading healthcare provider, Aetna, has recognized the value and benefit of this new technology to provide greater convenience and increased engagement for their participants. As a result, they partnered with Teladoc
Fully-insured Aetna members can use their Aetna ID to create an account, download the Teladoc app in order to schedule appointments quickly and efficiently. Teladoc contains patient-centric features like physician selection in all 50 states, the ability to upload relevant photos before the appointment begins, and secure storage of doctor communications. In response to COVID-19, Aetna is waiving the co-pays associated with Teladoc until June 4, 2020.
Patients can use the app (available from the Apple Store
or Google Play
) to conduct their appointment, select a pharmacy for prescription pick-up, and connect with specialists to discuss diagnoses, treatments, or questions related to surgery.
What Are the Advantages to Employees?
Telemedicine streamlines the provider visit experience, enabling faster, more convenient patient scheduling and care with highly-rated and experienced physicians. Benefits for employees utilizing telemedicine services include:
- Limiting exposure to germs in the doctor’s office
- Limiting others’ exposure to communicable illness
- Greater comfort and convenience for patients
- Access to a wide network of physicians, not limited to those in their area
What Are the Advantages to Employers?
Organizations whose employee health benefits programs include telemedicine services can connect their employees to easier, more convenient treatment without sacrificing the quality of care. Employees no longer need to carve out hours – or partial or full days – from their schedules to visit a doctor for routine or follow-up medical appointments. Overall, offices remain healthier as well as operational.
Check with Your Healthcare Provider
Telemedicine is a fast-rising alternative to in-person doctor visits, protecting those with fragile health and reducing the amount of time employees are forced to spend away from their desks.
Given the current conditions today, telemedicine provides users access to the medical care they need while doing their part to protect their communities, families, and loved ones by staying home.
Telemedicine availability and services vary based on health plan or employer, so reach out to your healthcare representative or PEO partner to find out if your health plan currently offers – or is planning to offer in the near future – this remote means of providing effective care.
Are telemedicine services included with your organization’s employee health benefits package? Contact our HR specialists and we’ll help you find out.