Employers are adding Telehealth services to their benefit packages at a rapid pace as they seek to provide cost-effective, quality health care to employees and their families.
Telehealth services vary among companies, but telehealth networks generally provide online and on-demand (24/7/365) health care services with fully integrated software that captures medical information and transfers it to the patient’s physician(s). Patients are able to collaborate securely with providers, including physicians, by way of voice, video, email, and mobile devices. Systems that are Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA)- and Protected Health Information (PHI)-compliant allow providers and payers to access data from medical records, including lab results, wellness advice, diagnosis, and treatment.
In many programs, telehealth services enhance access to psychologists, who are often hard to find, and allow psychologists to provide support between visits through remote monitoring. Many states are implementing laws requiring insurance carriers to reimburse health care professionals who provide services through telehealth.
Goals of telehealth programs, which are especially attractive to younger employees, include:
- Offering employees and their families access to health care at their convenience, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, whether at home, in the office, or in transit, without consideration of office hours or proximity of the health care provider.
- Supporting employees in rural areas who have limited access to care in their areas, as well as working parents with time constraints, employees with limited mobility, disabled employees and family members, those needing special language assistance, or those who have difficulty obtaining transportation.
- Ensuring quality care is cost-effective (generally less than the cost of an office visit).
- Supporting wellness initiatives offered to employees and families.
As with any new service, employers should conduct a thorough vetting process of a telehealth vendor, ensuring that training and licensing requirements have been met, privacy regulations are enforced, the network will meet the needs of employees, changes in technology are supported, the program is proven to be cost effective, and program administration, including provider reimbursements, is operating smoothly.