Rick Rosenquist 2013-01-16 04:12:27
Telemedicine…is it the Future? In my last article, I addressed HSA’s and how they will continue to grow in popularity. With employees now taking more ownership in their healthcare, telemedicine may be a way for employees and employers (through lower claims) to save money and gain efficiency. Telemedicine is an affordable solution to the challenge of healthcare access. It can provide employees and their family with round-the-clock access to U.S.-based, licensed physicians for telephone consultations. There are many reasons why interactive telemedicine is an attractive healthcare option for patients: 1. The patients personal care physician is unavailable; (63% of Americans report difficulty accessing PCP on nights,weekends, and holidays) 2. Office wait times are often lengthy. This will only be exacerbated by the shortage of physicians, especially primary care, and the addition of millions of insureds. (Average length of wait to see PCP is 20.5 hrs) 3. A medical situation arises after normal office hours; 4. The patient is away from home on business or vacation; 5. The patient needs a new prescription or a refill of a prior prescription; 6. There is non-emergency medical problem where the only alternative is a trip to the emergency room; 7. The patient needs a health question answered or wishes a second opinion ; 8. Cost effectiveness-Estimates by the National Center for Health Statistics on the cost of the average emergency room visit range from $600 to over $1,000. Wikipedia reports that the cost of the average family practice office visit ranges between $95 and $175, and the average cost of a visit to a specialist runs between $115 and $325. Average costs for walk-in, retail or urgent care-type clinics are approximately $177 per visit. By contrast, a telephone consult with a physician averages $35-$50 per consult or even zero cost depending on the plan; 9. Convenience; 10. Minimize loss of pay for missed work (a big one for attorneys and billable hours). Some common conditions that can be treated through telemedicine include: Acid reflux, allergies, asthma, bladder infection, bronchitis, cold/flu, constipation cough, fungal infections, gout, headache, heartburn, high blood pressure, infections, nausea, pneumonia(mild), sinus conditions, sore throat, thyroid conditions and urinary tract infections. A few telemedicine companies offer services specifically for children and in addition to the above, include conditions such as croup, ear infections, pink eye, and vomiting. Pictures can also be taken for conditions like rashes and texted or e-mailed to the provider. I have found there are many companies offering telemedicine, and the range of services provided, along with the cost structure,vary greatly. Some offer the basic plan with little or no cost up front and then charge a per occurrence consultation, typically $35-$45. (i.e. $30 diagnostic, $10 informational, $5 email). Others charge a PEPM (per employee per month) charge (typically $10-$15) with unlimited consultations along with additional services. The following are a list of different additional services, in addition to the consultations, provided through various telemedicine vendors: Diagnostic Consultation: Designed for in-depth consultations, including diagnosis of common conditions, where prescriptions are prescribed at the discretion of the consulting physician and refilled if needed at the pharmacy of your choice. Informational Consultation: U.S.-based physicians are available immediately for employees to gather information, ask questions or to offer a second opinion on common and acute conditions. Secure Email Consultation: For not so urgent conditions, you can expect a response from a U.S.-based licensed physician within 24 hours. Nevertheless, you can still gather information, ask questions or obtain a second opinion. Prescriptions are not available for informational or email consultations. Patient Advocacy: Advocates assist in establishing payment plans, settling any past due balances and negotiating reduced pricing for cash pay services. Adult Annual Wellness Test: Each calendar year, you and each adult member on your plan receive a no cost annual wellness test valued at over $400 per person. The annual wellness screening includes current levels for kidney and liver function, complete cholesterol panel and complete blood count. Discount Rx Card: By using this never ending prescription card, you can save anywhere from 15% - 55% on all of your prescription costs. Behavioral Health: If you’re feeling depressed or overwhelmed, behavioral counselors are available to consult with you and/or your family. Naturopathic Doctors: For a holistic approach to your health, a network of U.S.-based licensed naturopathic doctors are available. Nutritional Counseling: If you prefer a more natural way to address your health needs, nutritional counselors are available to answer any questions you may have. Global Benefit: Providing you with offshore/international medical, surgical and dental procedure discounts. Medical Records: Stores medical records from all your healthcare providers for up to ten family members, including pets, in one place. A personal health record enables doctors and medical personnel to quickly retrieve lifesaving information in an emergency. Wellness: A comprehensive health resource designed to help individuals achieve their personal goals regardless of age, gender or health condition. As you can see, there is more to telemedicine than just a phone call to a physician. In my opinion, this is part of the future of healthcare. We are definitely a mobile society, and we will continue to embrace the convenience and savings this innovative product offers.
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