Employers who aren’t looking at telehealth may be missing a valuable opportunity to save money and boost employee satisfaction with benefits.

Cutting costs is the primary reason employers implement telehealth options, said Alan Roga, M.D., SVP and general manager, provider market at Teladoc, last week at EBN’s Benefits Forum & Expo in Orlando, Fla. “We need to scale access to care and drive down costs [of health care].”

For Discount Tire/America’s Tire, personalized and one-on-one services with medical professionals were key in getting the employer on board with telehealth, said Cameron Sharp, a registered nurse and consultant with the tire and wheel retailer.

Also see: UnitedHealthcare opens up telehealth coverage options

Employees needed access from home, work, computer and tablets, he said. “We needed availability 24/7 as opposed to urgent care and quick care,” Sharp said, adding the company has saved close to $192,000 since implementing telehealth, based on average visit to emergency rooms.

And, he added, services are most used Monday through Friday during office hours, and the most common diagnosis is sinusitis. “It’s keeping employees at work and is highly used during flu and allergy seasons,” he added.

With the average cost of an ER visit running about $1,233 and the average cost of an urgent care visit running at $150, an e-visit’s average cost of $50 delivers value, said Roga.

Also see: Telehealth benefits gain wider acceptance

When evaluating a telehealth provider, Roga shared some best practices. E-prescribing, secure e-visit payment processes and the technology to facilitate virtual visits are minimum standards employers should look for, he said.

Multiple access points and 24/7/365 consultations and service should also be available. Also, “if they’re not prescribing electronically, I’d run,” he added. 

Also see: Cost-shifting not a long-term solution for health plans

In addition, when it comes to network options and executions, employers should look for a vendor that has proprietary clinical guidelines, extensive credentialing, top-notch response times and high patient satisfaction ratings.

“If you’re not looking at telehealth, it could be a disadvantage,” said Roga.

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