The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) defines “telehealth” as telecommunications and information technology used to share information and provide clinical care, education, public health and administrative services at a distance. The term “telemedicine” is more narrow. It generally refers to remote clinical services and telecommunications between providers and patients.

No matter what you call it, these systems allow a patient to communicate with a health care provider outside the traditional clinical setting. They offer health care services via smartphone and video chat. And they provide a wide range of treatments, including mental health visits, primary care diagnoses and prescription drug advice.

Benefits Of Telehealth

Telehealth is convenient because it offers access to medical and mental health care providers in a personal setting, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Here are some benefits to highlight for employees:

  • You pick the provider. Access in-network providers even if you are traveling or live in a remote area.
  • You schedule your appointment. Pick a time that works for you, not the doctor’s office.
  • You don’t have to wait. Log on for your appointment and the provider is there. No more hours spent in a waiting room sitting next to someone coughing and sneezing.

Providers will diagnose and treat nonemergency conditions. Some of the most common ailments they deal with include cold and flu-like symptoms, pink eye, nausea and rashes. They can also prescribe medication as needed.

Choosing Your Telehealth Program

Telehealth is no longer considered emerging technology. There are plenty of vendors from which to choose. A growing number of local health care systems offer programs. And many health carriers have designed plans that are already integrated with your group health plan.

You will want to schedule a demo of the product to make sure even your least tech-savvy employees can take advantage of the benefit. Here are a few suggestions on what to look for when choosing a vendor:

  • The system should be intuitive and easy to use. Instructions should be clear, technical jargon should be kept to a minimum and post-visit summaries should be simple to find.
  • The system should be HIPAA compliant, offer secure chat features, enable screen sharing and have the capability to receive photos.
  • There should be a robust mobile application to support the program. It should offer services like scheduling, video conferencing and remote patient monitoring. Almost 80% of the U.S. population owns a smartphone. Web applications alone are no longer enough.

There are also a few things to watch out for when making your selection.

  • If you offer a high deductible health plan, look for a telehealth program that won’t count as disqualifying coverage. Remember, the cost for any consultation must be considered fair market value and the participant must pay for the cost of the visit unless their deductible has already been met.
  • If you offer the telehealth program to all employees, regardless of enrollment in your medical plan, it could qualify as a separate group health plan under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA). To minimize this risk, you may want to offer coverage only to those employees enrolled in your group health plan.

Some states already have parity laws requiring insurance companies to reimburse for telehealth services the same way they do for medical care received in a provider’s office. But others do not. Be sure to look for a plan that makes it easy for your employees to pay for and utilize its services.

Encouraging Employees To Use Telehealth Services

While almost 75% of large employers offer telehealth services, participation remains low. To encourage employee use, don’t bury the benefit in your medical plan. Educate your employees on how the system works. Offer demos of the program and share success stories from patients (your vendor or health carrier can often provide these).

You may also want to:

  • Emphasize convenience. Working parents with small children may be especially appreciative of 24-hour services.
  • Remind employees of the system throughout the year. Flu season is a great time to encourage employees to take advantage of the program.
  • Allow employees time to utilize the program at work. You may want to set up a room that offers space for confidential meetings with providers.

In some cases, you will need to overcome the perception that these visits are impersonal. It’s important to remind employees that they are selecting the provider and will meet with them one-on-one. Regardless of the form of the appointment, the provider is dedicated to providing your employees with the care they need.

The Future Of Telehealth

Providers see a future where telehealth is a primary source of care. New programs are emerging on a regular basis. For example, on-demand urgent care via video is now available in select large markets and expected to expand to smaller markets across the country.

For More Information

If you are interested in learning more about how you and your employees can benefit from a telehealth program, connect with us. They can help with everything from vetting a program vendor to educating employees on how to take advantage of everything the system has to offer.

Employee Benefits




How You and Your Employees Can Embrace Telehealth

How You and Your Employees Can Embrace Telehealth