Telemedicine Slow to Be Adopted by Employees
With the increased buzz around telehealth lately, it’s no surprise that there is interest—among hospitals, physicians, and patients—to reduce costs and improve the flexibility of how care is provided. However, according to recent data, overall patient participation is low.
In August, the National Business Group on Health reported that, for 2016, 70% of large employers offered telehealth services in states where it is allowed. And the group expects more large employers—at least 90%—to add the service in 2017. (1) Many employers are on board with the addition of telehealth services in their benefits package because of the savings available. At a cost of about $40 per session, telemedicine services are substantially less expensive than office visits and urgent care ($100 and $150 respectively). (2)
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But patients aren’t jumping on the bandwagon just yet, perhaps because they’re unaware of the services or are concerned that a telehealth visit will be less thorough, and the diagnosis less reliable, than what they would get from an office visit. There seems to be some evidence to support these concerns according to a study published in JAMA Dermatology. (3) Of course, some conditions are not ideal for telehealth consults, and dermatology, which requires a clear view of affected areas for proper diagnosis, may be one.
Another common problem with telehealth services is that physicians often do not have access to patients’ complete health history, which can obviously play a factor in diagnosis and treatment. For that reason, it seems likely that physicians would support telehealth expansion as long as quality measures, to ensure that patient health is not compromised, are also in place.
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