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What Doctors Want Businesses to Know About Telehealth

medical providersTelehealthaccessibilityrural healthhospitalsIndustry News • 4 min read • Apr 11, 2022 12:00:00 AM • Written by: Kat Smith

Employers and medical providers share many of the same goals when it comes to telehealth. From increasing accessibility to minimizing ER visits, virtual care helps businesses maintain a healthy and productive workforce while giving medical practices, urgent care facilities and hospitals much-needed space for care that necessitates an in-person visit — without sacrificing any quality. Employee demand for telehealth has increased greatly due to its overall convenience, as well.

When a business institutes a telehealth program, it has a positive impact on the healthcare system. Here’s what doctors want businesses to know.

Greater Accessibility

Rural Americans live an average of 10.5 miles from the nearest hospital, according to Pew Center Research — and a quarter of them say this is a major problem within their communities. Even for city dwellers, the closest hospital is an average of five miles away. Mix in traffic, construction and other delays, and that 5-mile commute could take an hour.

No matter where employees live, few have the time, resources or energy to turn a simple doctor’s appointment into an all-day endeavor. Instead of arranging transportation, childcare and work schedules for an appointment, employees can access care at home, with extended hours, via a phone, tablet or computer.

Telehealth is also cheaper than traditional care, which expands accessibility. Save.Health studies suggest typical primary care telehealth appointments cost about $50, while in-person office visits cost an average of $175. And, if the patient resolves an urgent care issue through telehealth instead of visiting the ER, they can save thousands. Those covered under employer insurance will also have lower premiums and out-of-pocket costs. Businesses benefit here, too — the American Hospital Association reports employers who implemented telehealth programs in 2020 said they saved an average of 11%on their benefits budget.

Increased Hospital Capacity

Businesses want their employees to stay out of the hospital just as much as healthcare workers do. With only 2.9 hospital beds available per 1,000 people in the U.S., according to The World Bank, it’s important to prioritize who receives them. Space was especially limited throughout the pandemic, leaving many suffering from heart attacks, strokes, trauma and other serious issues without timely care due to an influx of COVID-19 patients. Even in normal circumstances, it’s not uncommon for hospitals to operate at near to full capacity.

Telehealth helps alleviate some of this pressure, freeing up hospital space and resources for more serious cases. While it doesn’t eliminate the need for inpatient care, it’s an effective way to catch problems early on and prevent worsening of symptoms. It also provides at-home support for those managing chronic conditions, completing care plans or recovering from surgery — all things that would previously require an in-person visit.

For businesses, this means employees won’t have to take as much time off work for appointments and hospital stays, resulting in higher productivity that increases the bottom line. The Harvard Business Review reports sick employees cost American companies over $150 billion in losses in 2021, but telehealth can help offset this figure with unmatched convenience that prompts frequent visits and early intervention.

Equal Quality of Care

Providing better accessibility and convenience doesn’t mean sacrificing quality. In fact, telehealth has proven to offer a similar level of care to that of traditional in-person visits.

MeMD patient surveys show a 93% satisfaction rate among telehealth patients. Broader studies published in 2021 also report 47% of patients were very satisfied and another 35% were satisfied, with their virtual visits. More than 88% of patients also believed the quality of care to be just as good, if not better, than traditional care. Comparatively, traditional hospitals have a median patient satisfaction score of 69.5%.

Although some services, like imaging, surgeries and bloodwork, still require in-person attention, telehealth is equally valuable for treating many urgent-care needs like flu, respiratory infections, COVID-19, strain, sprains and other common illnesses and injuries, as well as primary care, preventative care, men’s/women’s health and chronic care management. Moreover, telehealth is emerging as the preferred behavioral health care option for employees. The American Psychological Association reports the virtual model is just as effective as in-person care in treating common issues like depression and anxiety – issues that pummel productivity and often affect physical health.

Patients and Doctors Want It

Doctors are no strangers to hearing in-person patients say, “I could have done this at home,” and there’s a reason why three-quarters of all employers have incorporated some form of telehealth into their employee healthcare plans, according to the Business Group of Health.

Telehealth demand and usage has increased 38 times since before the pandemic, and it’s expected to be an essential form of care long after it ends. Mckinsey & Co. found that 40% of patients plan to continue to use telehealth going forward, up from just 11% using telehealth prior to COVID-19. For physicians, Mckinsey & Co. also reports 96% are now willing to use telehealth, and 58% view telehealth more favorably now than they did before COVID-19.

Doctors and employers both benefit greatly from the simplicity and accessibility telehealth offers. Medical providers can keep healthcare facilities filled with the patients who require in-person care, and businesses can keep their workplaces filled with healthy, present and productive employees. Implementing telehealth into your company’s healthcare plan is a strategic way to save money while accommodating employees’ needs and demands for convenient, high-quality care.

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Kat Smith