Why in the world are we still talking about telemedicine the same way we have for the last five or so years? With 90% of large employers expected to offer it to their employees in 2019, I’m pretty sure clients get the gist and you may feel as though the box is checked. Yet, I still have conversations weekly that lead to a refreshed approach.
I propose we have a different conversation about telemedicine. Not about what it is and why your clients should offer it, but how to build an effective, successful program.
New Benefits isn’t new to the telemedicine game. We’ve led the market with Teladoc, piloting their $0 visit fee model. Our CEO was their first patient to receive a prescription over the phone in 2007. Today, we partner with 70% of the top 50 employee benefit brokerage firms in the country and provide telemedicine and other cost containment services to hundreds of thousands of members. And we’ve found a pretty good strategy: our clients see an average 34% utilization rate.
This is how we do it.
I Got 99 Problems (But a Visit Fee Ain’t One)
Remove the visit fee at every opportunity. Mercer research found that groups with greater than 10% average utilization had a median copay of $15, compared to the less than 6% average utilization of groups with a $30 median copay.
If their telemedicine visit doesn’t cost anything, employees are more likely to give it a chance and keep using it. And if they really like it, they’ll spread the word.
My Version of the Harlem Shake (Stories Make it Relatable for the Employee)
Even though telemedicine could be the perfect solution a lot of employees need, they might not understand exactly when to use it, how it saves them money, and why it’s applicable to their lives. Watch this quick video to see how I make it relatable.
You Gotta Keep ‘Em Separated (Insert Guitar Solo)
CFO.com published this great article last year on reaping the benefits of telemedicine from Beth Umland, director of research for Mercer’s health business. She discusses the frustration from CFOs when learning about underperforming telemedicine usage, provides a few solutions of reducing or removing the visit fee and improving communication, then ends with my favorite quote:
“It’s also worth considering the quality of the telemedicine program offered. The average utilization rate is twice as high for (employers contracted with a specialty telemedicine vendor) — 12% vs. 6% among those offering through the health plan — even though the average copay amounts are virtually the same.”
Umland admits they don’t have the data to say how these ‘specialty telemedicine vendors’ are getting higher rates. At 34% utilization, we have some authority to tell you one thing: when you separate telemedicine from the health plan, you have a greater opportunity to put the service in the spotlight rather than it getting lost under the insurance details. This is when you bring in your relatable story and show how telemedicine works for those minor illnesses.
You Make It Eeeessaaay (At Least You Should)
Simplifying physical access to telemedicine is also crucial. We give employees three access points: a membership kit and card mailed directly to the employee’s home (yes, it’s archaic - and employers and employees love it), a mobile app, and a web portal. Employees can pull their card out to call the telemedicine service, speak to a doctor directly through our app, or request a visit on the portal.
If You Like It, Then You Shoulda Put a Ring on It (Get ‘em Engaged)
You can increase participation by promoting telemedicine at benefit fairs, webinars, through traditional communication and promotional pieces, and by tying it to wellness incentives — I have some ideas in mind that have worked for other clients. Ask employers how they typically communicate any type of announcement to their employees, from insurance info to details on the holiday party. Is it putting a flyer on the back of bathroom stalls? Postcard sent through direct mail? Email? If it’s already effective, don’t reinvent the wheel. These same channels should be used to regularly send out communications about the usefulness of telemedicine and other cost containment solutions.
With our mobile app, My Benefits Work™, we’re able to send push notifications directly to the employee about telemedicine and any other message the employer wants to share with their employees.
Why Can’t You See, You Belong with Me?
No matter the size of the group, employers are making an investment in their employees through the benefit package. Being able to introduce products and services that deliver satisfaction, lower healthcare costs, and improve productivity is a major value. There’s more employers can offer than virtual acute care to achieve that value.
Telehealth continues to expand, with services for behavioral health counseling, dermatology, lower back pain, and expert second opinions. Mental health is an especially crucial issue right now, costing employers billions in healthcare expenses and lost productivity. Easy access to treatment removes the stigma of therapy and encourages use, further making a positive impact on health outcomes.
Advocacy and transparency tools can save employers thousands of dollars on their healthcare claims. Health advocates educate, motivate, and empower employees to more easily navigate the healthcare system and their benefits. Price transparency tools provide cost comparisons for providers, procedures, and prescriptions so employees can make smarter, more cost-effective healthcare decisions.
Take a Look at Yourself and Make a Change
If you’re ready to stop using the old telemedicine script, go ahead and change the conversation. Remove the barriers (like high visit fees), simplify access (check out our app), and enhance the experience with tools to regain lost productivity and create a smarter healthcare consumer.
P.S. Hope that song in your head goes away soon…if it doesn’t - maybe not the best opportunity to use telemedicine.
Jake Cleer, VP Sales
As Vice President of Sales at New Benefits, Jake tailors non-insured benefit programs to a number of the top 50 brokerage and consulting firms around the country. He builds strategy with consultants and account management teams to embed telehealth, advocacy, and other products, helping their clients add value to the employee benefit offering while redirecting claims from their health plan.
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