According to our recent findings, there are more than 200 telemedicine providers offering an array of virtual care and telehealth services. With so many options, finding the best telemedicine company can be dizzying.
According to First Stop Health’s research, 91% of employers currently offer telemedicine or plan to offer telemedicine starting in 2020.
This is, in part, because many insurance providers offer telemedicine embedded within their health plans. Oftentimes, however, embedded telemedicine does not generate significant results. Because of weak performance, employers with carrier-embedded telemedicine may be looking elsewhere for alternative solutions.
Whether an employer is considering offering telemedicine for the first time or are reconsidering their current provider, it is important to know what to look for. Here is what employers should expect from a top telemedicine provider.
Customized Employee Communications
The last thing employers need is another benefit to manage. HR is already overwhelmed and stretched thin. While telemedicine might seem like a great benefit to offer, HR might not have the time or resources to invest to effectively communicate yet another benefit.
Telemedicine is only helpful when it is used. The more employees use telemedicine, the less they will go to the ER or urgent care center. As a result, self-insured employers save money and employees save time.
Explaining how, when and why to use telemedicine should not fall on the HR department to execute alone. The best telemedicine companies make implementation and employee engagement easy. They provide a customized employee engagement program to ensure employees not only know about the telemedicine benefit — they actually use it when needed.
First, let’s define utilization. Utilization in telemedicine is the number of doctor consultations in a given year divided by the total number of covered employees. Average telemedicine utilization currently ranges from 1-10%.
Utilization = Consultations / Covered employees. By way of example, if a 1,000 employee company had 200 consultations in a year they would have 20% utilization.
If an employer is not achieving high utilization, it is indicative of a disinterested telemedicine provider that doesn’t have the right incentives to drive utilization. Low usage means that the employee engagement program failed to work.
If people are not using the telemedicine benefit, then the employer will not achieve a positive return on investment (ROI). The best telemedicine companies see average utilization of at least 25%, if not higher.
Telemedicine should always result in a positive ROI. Sure, it’s nice to offer telemedicine, but if it’s not helping an employer save money, attract candidates, retain employees and improve employee quality of life, then it’s not serving its purpose.
It should be noted that while the ROI percentage matters, so do the ROI dollars. When vendors offer a pay-as-you go model, the ROI percentage can be relatively high, but it might only represent a few hundred dollars in actual savings.
Self-insured employers should look for a telemedicine provider that guarantees significant hard-dollar savings. The provider should be willing to put most if not all of their fees at risk and commit to diverting costs away from expensive medical claims.
The cost of telemedicine varies greatly. Most providers have a per employee per month (PEPM) model. Some charge onboarding fees and/or doctor consult fees. Others vendors even charge additional engagement fees for anything other than basic email campaigns.
The best telemedicine providers are upfront with their fees from the get-go. These telemedicine companies do not charge when employees exceed a usage limit and do not surprise employers with hidden fees. And finally, top telemedicine providers see driving engagement and utilization as part of their responsibility. They don’t charge extra if additional engagement costs are incurred to increase utilization for their clients.
The last thing a sick employee needs is to be put on hold when trying to access telemedicine — or worse, unable to actually reach a doctor. The best telemedicine companies offer 24/7/365 access to doctors licensed, board-certified in all 50 states. These providers also ensure employees reach a doctor within less than five minutes.
At its core, a telemedicine provider is a caring service provider, not a technology platform. Physician quality, receptiveness and bedside manner should be the No. 1 priority for the best telemedicine companies.