Utilization. It’s a word that conjures up mixed emotions in telehealth. The higher it is, the more value to all stakeholders. But it doesn’t have to be the elusive Holy Grail. Driving telehealth utilization is very possible, and it's important for employers: It has been proven to not only reduce medical costs and expand access to care, but also boost employee productivity and overall workplace satisfaction. Some organizations even find it a great tool to attract new talent in a competitive job market.
Yet, for employers who want to get the maximum return on investment from a telehealth program, it means doing a lot more than just inserting any telehealth solution into a benefits package and calling it done.
Also see: “10 emerging HR trends.”
So how do you encourage employees to change the way they think about how they seek care? Here are a few tips on how to solve the mystery of engagement and truly make it attainable:
1. Seek out tools that help ingrain a new mindset. Nowadays, changing habits and behaviors are boosted by innovative technology. Telehealth smartphone apps not only make a virtual visit possible, but also offer features like geo-fenced reminders that prompt telehealth use at the time of need.
2. Communicate the quality of telehealth. Is your primary care physician board certified? When you’re sick, what’s better than a board-certified and highly experienced physician on speed dial 24/7/365? And with continuous quality assurance monitoring, you can be confident in receiving a positive “bedside manner.” In an average of 10 minutes, you can receive excellent care from just about anywhere.
3. Choose a telehealth partner with a comprehensive consumer engagement machine. Employers should find a telehealth partner that creatively engages with them to increase top-of-mind awareness of their telehealth benefit through a combination of hard copy, email and social media reminders. Even consider looking for a partner with a utilization guarantee. Go one step further and find a partner that calculates that utilization using all eligible members including dependents; not just using the subscriber number.
4. Remember that it’s not your father’s telehealth anymore. When employees realize that some telehealth services go far beyond treating a sore throat and flu, utilization can increase. Look for platforms that are continuing to evolve to meet a broader range of healthcare needs such as smoking cessation programs, behavioral health and dermatology services. And those aren’t the only unexpected extras today’s telehealth has in store. What about a high-tech thermometer that can automatically send temperature readings to the remote telehealth doctor? It’s a reality. And it’s the type of innovation that can be expected to continue, further making increased utilization an attainable reality.
Real ROI from telehealth requires that employees use it. After all, when an entire employee population uses telehealth for non-emergency conditions, avoiding the ER or urgent care centers, cost reductions are dramatic, and that affects everyone in the healthcare circle.
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