Rising Trend in Employer Health Benefits: Virtual Appointments
Employers are ever looking for new and more effective ways to offer the best healthcare and wellness options to employees, while simultaneously improving the physical and mental well-being of employees in an effort to achieve a happier and more productive workforce.
The name of the game, currently? Giving employees more options and greater flexibility to achieve their wellness goals and get to overall better health. Bret McKitrick, Senior HR Consultant for Associated Benefits and Risk Consulting, discusses one trending healthcare benefit many employers are implementing: telephone or video chat appointments with doctors.
The days of struggling to squeeze into a physician’s busy schedule for a face-to-face appointment to receive a diagnosis may be coming to an end—at least when addressing a number of more common ailments.
“I think what we’re seeing is the advent of tele-medicine or tele-health,” McKitrick said. “And that’s something where, via phone or often video conference, you’ll talk to a healthcare provider … about your health needs.”
McKitrick notes those calls might stem from a variety of root causes.
“Those could be acute needs, like … instead of going to an ER or quick-care center, you dial up the video conference,” McKitrick said. “Or, it could be something from a chronic management standpoint, like managing diabetes.”
Not only does this option offer an alternative to employees who might find themselves in a scheduling nightmare for an in-person office visit, the employer reaps benefits as well.
“The biggest reason is cost savings,” McKitrick said. “These tele-medicine or tele-heath centers are run either by the insurance company—sort of as a value-add, if you will—(or) by the healthcare providers as maybe a lower cost way of delivering medical care, or by a third-party vendor.”
An inflamed throat? A video conference through your home computer might do the trick when it comes to getting an examination.
(When it comes to diagnosing) “something like strep, where … you may need just to look at a person’s throat, (with) video cameras, the technology is there to look at a person’s throat remotely,” McKitrick said.
And, even long-term health issues can be addressed as well.
“So for chronic disease management, maybe someone’s suffering from high blood pressure,” McKitrick said. “And they wear a device on them that measures that for them. Then they can meet maybe monthly with a provider via videoconference where they talk about their daily habits, their exercise habits, their eating habits—all the things that might contribute to that hypertension.”