Consensus is building that telehealth saves time, money, worry and hassle in the workplace, but abysmal usage levels mean this new delivery system isn’t even close to meeting its full potential.

Less than 4% of the 35 million employees with access to telehealth services actually use the benefit, according to Jeff Marks, a telehealth industry executive, who is the founder and CEO of healthPERX.

Looking to boost those levels, telehealth solution provider HealthiestYou has developed a telehealth plan app that increases utilization tenfold to nearly 40%. Introduced last September, to date 5,000 benefit advisers have been instrumental in introducing the app to nearly 10,000 employer groups.

Previously, HealthiestYou required its members to call a toll-free number and log into a website to access their telehealth resources. With the app, members can now use their favorite hand-held device to consult with a doctor via phone or video chat. The app is compatible with the Google Android and Apple iOS platforms for smartphones and tablets, as well as smart-TV connections to Netflix or HBO GO. It can be used in conjunction with primary care plans and HealthiestYou’s wellness coaching and medication discounts.

The application sets itself apart from other telehealth apps by bundling a number of healthcare resources for a more holistic offering, asserts Scott Sanford, chief growth officer at four year-old HealthiestYou, whose telehealth network of more than 2,300 doctors are accessible 24/7 via telephone or email to diagnose conditions and prescribe medications.

Along with accessing doctors and scheduling appointments, the app allows users to research health plan information and benefits eligibility, view their annual deductible in real time, and obtain pricing for medical procedures and prescription drugs.

“Clients love it,” reports Darren Griffith, a benefits adviser and CEO of Performance Insurance Benefits. “It makes [accessing a telehealth network] much easier and more user-friendly to have an app at your fingertips instead of having to pick up the phone or go online.”

Likewise, Moe DeRegis, national sales manager for Paragon Partners LTD, says the clients of his firm’s network of mostly small group brokers appreciate the turnkey functions of the HealthiestYou telehealth app. “You can push a button; you don’t have to dial a number. They immediately ask you why you need to talk to a doctor, and then have the doctor call you back. That’s the key.”

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“In this day and age, we need to be innovative."

The trouble with traditional telehealth services, DeRegis notes, is that brokers and telehealth companies haven’t adequately educated employees in their advantages and use. Even at a cost of just $3 per employee, an employer’s investment in telehealth is wasted, he says, without sufficient education to alter the way in which employees interact with their medical providers.

HealthiestYou overcomes this limitation, DeRegis says, by integrating the app with the medical plans it offers. They are ahead of the curve, he says, predicting that all medical plans will have an embedded telehealth program within the next five years.

HealthiestYou offers brokers and advisers extensive training to help them promote the telehealth app, which is offered under a capitated pricing model that charges employers a per-employee-per-month fee. The app has the potential to realize “huge savings” for employers, according to Sanford, by reducing the volume of healthcare claims and lowering the costs of those claims.

The app also may be just what the doctor ordered for employers looking to increase the productivity of their workforce—and producers who are looking for a competitive leg up. “In this day and age, we need to be innovative,” Griffith observes, noting the importance of providing employees with immediate access to medical attention by helping them avoid long wait times. “Doctor’s offices are so overloaded nowadays that I really don’t know anybody who doesn’t wait an extended period of time. And it’s just going to get worse.”

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