Telemedicine: A New(ish) Healthcare Strategy

The advisory team at FirstPerson has long held the mantra that when high quality clinicians and healthcare providers are connected to employees, great outcomes happen. This is even truer when the high quality care is brought forward in a cost effective and elegant way. A great example where Indiana has been a national leader is in the proliferation of near-site and on-site healthcare clinics.

On March 23, 2016, Indiana Governor Mike Pence signed into law HB 1263. This long overdue move allows telemedicine to move forward as a solution for employers with new clarity that allows providers to prescribe medicine (although, not all meds) for the treatment of general and acute illness. Prior to this point, Indiana law was gray, meaning employers needed to either ignore the rules or wait for this much needed clarity.

What is telemedicine?

Telemedicine, or telehealth, connects people to a medical provider through electronic communications (i.e., smartphone, tablet, or computer). When you don’t want to wait forever at urgent care or when your primary doctor’s office is simply closed, this is a great alternative for convenient and affordable quality health care. It also makes contacting a doctor easier and saves time on lengthy visits.

Telemedicine as a healthcare strategy

The good news is that it’s not a new strategy; it’s actually a growing trend. And thanks to many other states allowing this kind of solution, the market has matured and developed over the past few years. In a 2014 survey by Towers Watson, a global benefits advisor, 37% of employers said that in 2015 they expected to offer employees a telehealth benefit in lieu of emergency room benefits. And another 34% are expected to offer this benefit for 2016 or 2017.

What to expect

For Indiana consumers, expect to see information flood the market in the coming weeks and months. In a news blast to the market, Rob Hillman, President and General Manager of Anthem Indiana, wrote the following regarding HB 1263 and their partnership with LiveHealth Online, one of the big players in the market in Indiana:

“Why is LiveHealth Online good for Indiana? LiveHealth Online will let members visit a board-certified doctor, 24/7, via live video. All they’ll need is an Internet connection and a smartphone, tablet or computer with a webcam. The program is cost-effective and convenient. And it will let members get the care they need for flu, colds, allergies, minor infections and more, when they can’t get in to see their own doctor.

Anthem already offers this program in all other states where we do business. But until now, current law in Indiana has stopped us from making telemedicine available to our members in Indiana. The passing of HB 1263 changes that and will give physicians the ability to write prescriptions during an online visit.”

While LiveHealth Online is a big player in Indiana, Teledoc is leading the way nationwide. Teledoc is the largest telehealth company in the U.S. that began in 2002 with “a vision of tackling the three biggest issues in healthcare”: access, cost, and quality. Today it serves 12.6 million members with 92% of patient issues resolved.

Over the next few weeks we will begin to help business leaders explore telemedicine. This is yet another tool in the toolbox that helps thoughtful employers and their employees manage their health and well-being in an innovative and cost-effective way!

 

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