When it comes to telemedicine benefits, beware the words “it’s included,” “no additional cost,” or “free”. These phrases may be harmless describing a set of Ginsu knives on late night infomercials, but they should raise red flags coming from insurance carriers. Unfortunately, "free" embedded telemedicine sits forgotten—never getting the chance to deliver value to your clients and their employees.
Worse yet, this “free” benefit can end up costing your clients and their employees far more in the long run—in the neighborhood of $500,000 yearly for a 2,000 employee company. Let’s examine what your clients are really getting in these “free” benefits, and the four solid reasons to steer them away from telemedicine that is embedded in a major medical policy.
Insurance companies are in the business of calculating risk to generate profits. They are not in the business of changing behavior to save the money of your patients, or your clients, money, to improve the overall health of your clients’ employees, or even to make accessing healthcare easier.
This is illustrated when employees attempt to engage their “free” telemedicine benefits and encounter many intrinsic barriers. If a patient stumbles across their telemedicine provider’s phone number or website, they will experience long wait times and encounter extensive registration processes to complete along with co-pays that need to be paid prior to requesting to speak to a doctor. Worse than that, employees never receive any sort of guidance or encouragement to utilize their benefits. The real kicker comes when employees are told there is a co-pay with this “free” benefit. Ouch. So, it’s “included” in the premium, but far from free.
LACK OF COMMUNICATION
Major medical plans simply don’t communicate the necessary information to drive employee utilization of embedded telemedicine benefits. Insurance companies are extremely diligent and punctual when it comes to sending out monthly statements, but sadly, the necessary communication introducing and explaining telemedicine benefits is overlooked by major medical policy providers.
The missing communication link in major medical policies results in a lack of understanding on the part of employees. This gap in understanding results in confusion—wondering what is covered, what is not, and fearing the bite of hidden costs. A confused mind says no, and the fear created by lack of understanding drives the abysmal 1% employee utilization rate of embedded telemedicine. Yes, you read that correctly. One percent. Nobody is winning with these numbers—certainly not your clients, or their employees.
THE COST: $500,000 IN UNNECESSARY HEALTHCARE CLAIMS
If your clients’ employees don’t know how or why to utilize their embedded telemedicine benefit, what do they do when they get sick? They revert back to what they know—in-person doctor or urgent care visits which trigger significant financial and productivity costs to your clients. The numbers are staggering and detailed in a Veracity Healthcare Analytics study on telemedicine savings. With the average visit costing $717, a carrier-embedded telemedicine benefit can save a company of 2,000 around $12,300 yearly. A separate telemedicine benefit with an industry-leading 44% employee utilization rate from First Stop Health will save that same company around $524,000 in avoided claims. The “free” benefit is actually costing $511,700 in lost savings from avoidable healthcare claims.
Don’t be tempted to settle for “free” telemedicine benefits embedded in major medical policies. In the world of telemedicine, as with most things, your clients will get what they pay for. Virtually no one will use it.
Encourage your clients to seek an individual provider with a proven platform of communication, understanding and trust that drives employee engagement. One such as First Stop Health, whose business it is to educate, change behavior, save your clients money, and increase productivity with happier, healthier employees.