4 Things Telemedicine Companies Just Aren’t Telling You

May 11, 2017

Teira Gunlock

When evaluating vendors for new employee benefits, you are critical of the sales pitch. You ask all the right questions, scrutinize the numbers, and check references. Vendors of seemingly similar benefits tend to compete on price. But for some, there’s usually a shockingly low sticker price for a product or service that makes us think, “Wait, is this for real?”

The telemedicine companies that have low PEPMs do just that. They use a tiny price tag to reel us in––but they’re never upfront about the actual dollar value of what they are selling.

This is the type of thing we’re talking about today: what telemedicine companies just aren’t telling you as you research and compare your options.

1. Hidden fees

We all want to believe too-good-to-be-true prices are real. But the truth is that many telemedicine companies tack on fees for engagement programs and onboarding. But engagement programs are exactly what will start driving your savings!

In addition to implementation fees, many telemedicine companies also require your employees to pay a $40 co-pay each time they call their provider. This is a huge barrier to use as it’s not enough savings from a primary care physician co-pay to encourage them to change their habit. You might pay a lower PEPM as an employer with this option, but you’re shifting the cost to your staff in the form of a standard co-pay.

2. No one will use it

Consultation fees and no structured engagement program lead directly to low utilization. But telemedicine companies often aren’t transparent about their rates in a way that shows you exactly how much usage you’ll realistically see. Do they have the numbers to show how much you will save in avoided healthcare costs?

If no one in your office is using and talking about the great health benefit, telemedicine loses its charm. It becomes an ancillary benefit that's dragging on your bottom line.

3. Changing behavior is hard

Speaking of revamping healthcare routines, most telemedicine companies won’t be transparent with you about just how difficult it can be to transition your employees to this new system. They will make it sound shiny and innovative, but in reality your employees feel uneasy about changes in healthcare. They don’t want to try something unfamiliar for fear that they will pay the co-pay yet be unsatisfied with the service.

4. They won't save you any money

The average employer-provided telemedicine utilization rate is 7%, which means just a small fraction of your employees will be avoiding healthcare costs and driving savings. This is the type of money-losing benefit that you want to avoid.

Originally published May 11, 2017 12:00:00 PM.