Telemedicine Benefit Remains Underutilized

October 27, 2016

As the open enrollment period for employer-sponsored insurance approaches, there is one benefit that employers hope employees will take more advantage of: telemedicine.

Of the estimated 1.2 billion outpatient visits last year, just 1 million were conducted using telemedicine, according to Willis Towers Watson data.

Why haven’t employees flocked to telemedicine? According to a recent article in the Chicago Tribune, it’s possible they don’t understand it, don’t know it’s available, or are skeptical of getting a doctor’s opinion without physically being with a doctor. However, it isn’t because the service is more expensive: it’s not. The average telemedicine visit costs between $40 and $49 and some employers don’t require an employee contribution, covering 100% of the fee, said Willis Towers Watson senior consultant Dr. Allan Khoury, who was interviewed for the article. This compares favorably with a visit to a primary care doctor ($110) or a trip to the emergency room ($865).

Regardless of why employees are slow to adopt telemedicine, Dr. Khoury advises employers to figure it out and put in place strategies for accelerating adoption, starting with increased employee education. There’s a lot of money to be saved through telemedicine that won’t be realized until employees start using it.

To read the article in the Chicago Tribune, click here.

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