Telehealth, also referred to as telemedicine, refers to the use of technology to provide remote healthcare services. Despite being around for decades, telehealth is consistently underutilized. While an estimated 88% of employers currently offer some form of telehealth to their employees, it is believed that only 9-10% of eligible employees have used it to make a virtual appointment. Previously considered a value-add benefit with most employer healthcare plans, the current coronavirus pandemic is bringing telehealth to the forefront of healthcare.
Restrictive measures are being implemented across the country to flatten the curve of infection and prevent the spread of the disease. Telehealth has emerged as a gatekeeper, allowing those with milder symptoms to avoid crowded waiting rooms while directing severe cases to hospitals for further testing. Given that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is prioritizing testing based on stringent criteria and demographics, telehealth is providing a pressure relief valve for an already overwhelmed healthcare system.
Several insurers have even worked to incentivize telehealth by waiving copays, including Aetna, Humana, and some Blue Cross Blue Shield providers. Since implementing incentives, Aetna has seen telemedicine participation more than double. Employees can also use telehealth to handle non-coronavirus related issues such as refilling prescriptions or evaluating other routine ailments.
While telehealth is serving as a valuable resource, it is also important to understand its limitations. If a screened patient is flagged as needing additional testing or treatment based on the consultation, they will still need to see a professional in-person.
What a Telehealth Visit Entails
Telehealth visits can be conducted in several different manners including online chats, video conferencing, and traditional phone calls. Whichever method you choose, the first step typically includes an intake form to describe your symptoms and health history. After completing the intake form, you will be routed to a health professional to discuss your symptoms and any additional relevant information that will inform treatment options. The next steps vary from instructing you to go to a local hospital to simply advising you to carefully observe your health and call again if symptoms continue to get worse.
Aldrich is Here to Help
Curious to know if your current healthcare plan offers a telehealth benefit? Reach out to your Aldrich Benefits Advisors today to learn more.
The information provided on this website does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice; instead, all information, content, and materials available on this site are for general informational purposes only. Readers of this website should contact their attorney to obtain advice with respect to any particular legal matter.
Meet the Author
Employee Benefits Consultant
Aldrich Benefits LP
Evan Cole partners with his clients to advise and assist them with their employee benefit plans, specializing in group and association plans. Prior to joining Aldrich, Evan was a top producing employee benefits representative for one of the nation’s largest life, disability, and dental carriers. He holds licenses for life and health in the states…
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