HealthEquity blog


How promoting telehealth services can help consumers access the care they need—and save money

How promoting telehealth services can help consumers access the care they need and save money

This fall we conducted a survey of 1,155 full-time employees across the United States to understand how they were managing healthcare expenses during COVID-19. We found that many are unaware of how much healthcare services cost, and many more are simply unprepared for unexpected expenses. But there’s a lot that benefits teams can do to make a difference. This is the final article of our four-part series designed to give employers strategies and resources to help their people save more and spend smarter.

Little did we know early in 2020 just how big of an impact virtual doctor visits would have on healthcare. But here we are a year later and telehealth has proven to be one of the most significant healthcare trends to emerge as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

For obvious reasons, telehealth became a healthcare necessity by providing safe access under pandemic sheltering guidelines. To keep pace with the emergency demand, an ease of restrictions in the U.S. allowed more people to seamlessly utilize healthcare services from home.

But what’s especially interesting is that not only does telehealth expand access and prevent needless exposure to illness, it has also proven to cuts costs. With access to convenient telehealth resources, people don’t have to pay for travel, childcare or taking time off work. There is also less overhead involved for healthcare providers.

In 2018, the American Journal of Emergency Medicine found that a single telehealth consult could address the majority of health concerns. Telemedicine consultations resulted in short-term cost savings by diverting patients from more expensive care settings—helping save between $19 to $121 per visit.

According to MDLIVE, more than 100 million Americans accessed virtual care since the pandemic began. More than 50 percent of patients said they would have gone to an urgent care clinic or the ER if they didn't have the more convenient telehealth option. And not all of those visits were COVID-related. People used the service to get routine medical care, refill prescriptions, and even undergo psychiatric evaluation.

 

Moving forward with telehealth

The COVID-19 pandemic significantly changed the way Americans access healthcare. Seven in ten of our survey respondents said the pandemic had made them more willing to use telehealth resources. This was true across all age groups—even older Americans are getting more comfortable with remote doctor visits.

Organizations can help promote cost savings by offering a telehealth benefit that includes access to virtual visits. By working with your health plan to reduce member cost-sharing fees for telehealth, you can help boost participation. Some organizations even offer gift cards or other financial incentives to employees who register for virtual visits. With more than half of all employers planning to offer more virtual care options in their benefits packages, it’s clear telehealth could be a top initiative in 2021.

 

 

 

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HealthEquity does not provide legal, tax or financial advice. Always consult a professional when making life-changing decisions.

Topics: HSA, employees

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