With healthcare costs continuing to increase for most employers and employees, many employers are focusing their efforts on building a healthier workforce to make coverage sustainable for the future. One cost-saving, health-promoting benefit employers are turning to is telehealth services.
With a telehealth benefit, an employee (the patient) accesses a health provider via telephone or video conferencing for the treatment of a non-emergency condition. This service is:
Timely - it allows employees to access care 24/7 even during work hours. Employees don’t have to worry about taking time off or being away from their family and can receive the care when they need it.
Convenient - especially for employees with limited health care providers, so they can get access to a physician faster and without having to travel far to a doctor’s office.
Cost-effective – Cost is usually less than $50, while primary care/urgent care appointments can range from $80 to $160 or higher depending on copay and coinsurance levels, according to the American Academy of Urgent Care Medicine.
More and more employers today are offering telehealth benefits. In fact, according to the National Business Group on Health (NBGH) 2017 Health Plan Design Survey, 90% of employers reported they will provide telehealth benefits in states where they can this year.
Yet, the survey also found that of the employees who had access to telehealth services in 2016, only 3% used the benefit.
So, where is the disconnect? Recognizing the value that telemedicine can provide just isn’t enough. In many organizations, employees’ awareness of these services, and even how to access the benefit, may be limited. To make this benefit worthwhile to employers and employees, the benefit can’t just exist… it has to be used.
Employers need a well-executed and consistent communication strategy promoting the benefit that will educate employees about the existence and process for using telehealth services and to address any barriers to utilization. This strategy will help employees’ knowledge and trust in the benefits that telehealth services offer.
Benefits Magazine has a list of suggestions for employers who are considering designing a communication campaign on their telehealth benefit. Some sample topics could include:
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