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Launching Telehealth Benefits? Here's What You Need to Know

Launching Telehealth Benefits? Here's What You Need to Know
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We turn to the Internet to answer nearly every question we have, and today more and more employers are using it to solve their healthcare problems. To cut down healthcare costs while still providing employees with quality care, two-thirds of employers surveyed by DirectPath and CEB said they offer or plan to offer telehealth services to employees by 2018.

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Although telehealth benefits can be beneficial for both employers and employees, there are a few things employers need to do before they can launch these new offerings successfully. Follow these steps to get the most from telemedicine services:

1. Educate employees.

Employees may feel uncomfortable with telehealth because it’s much less familiar than their usual doctor check-up. They won’t initially know how to use the new benefits to get the most out of them. To get the program to benefit them and you, the employer, employees need to understand it enough to use it.

Before launching telemedicine benefits, let employees know what to expect from a virtual visit and which illnesses practitioners are equipped to treat. Do they need to call in? Can they have video appointments with a provider? Is there an app they can download and use? And how does it work? For example, platforms like Sherpaa allow employees to call and text questions to healthcare providers over the company's app.

In addition, some telehealth practitioners can treat only conditions like colds, allergies and rashes and are limited in what medications they can prescribe virtually. Share this information with employees and make it easy to reference again by storing it internally on your HR platform.

2. Show the potential for savings.

Even when employees know how to navigate telehealth platforms, they may still be reluctant to go virtual with their healthcare. To get employees on board, show them how switching to telemedicine can save them money.

When telemedicine is included in employee health plans, employees can avoid co-pays by participating in a virtual appointment instead of one that's in-person. Some platforms like HealthiestYou can also save employees money by analyzing prescription costs and revealing which pharmacy will give them the best price.

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When educating employees about telehealth use, focus on the ways the platform can help to put money back in their pockets. Explain how the program can avoid costly ER visits, cut down on doctor appointments and co-pays, and reduce the cost of medications.

3. Review licensure requirements.

Getting patients on board with telehealth is only part of a successful program; employers need to know and understand regulations to stay compliant. Licensing requirements limit which providers employees can visit virtually.

In most states, to practice telemedicine, doctors must be licensed in the state they are located and in the state where the patient is located. So, although patients can technically connect with any doctor virtually, they can’t necessarily do so legally. Employers need to know what their state licensing and certification requirements are, especially if they have offices in multiple states.

4. Understand state regulations.

Not only do employers need to be aware of state licensing regulations, they also need to know other state-specific telehealth regulations. For instance, some states require patients to undergo an in-person exam or evaluation before that physician is allowed to prescribe medications for them virtually. However, other states allow this initial exam to be performed by the doctor's review of medical records and diagnostic images, electronically.

For example, in Virginia, a physician must perform an exam of the patient before he or she prescribes medications via telehealth. But the doctor can do this exam physically or by “the use of instrumentation and diagnostic equipment through which images and medical records may be transmitted electronically,” according to the state regulations. In Maryland, if the patient and physician have never met face-to-face, the doctor can use real-time phone or video conversations to perform the necessary evaluation.

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Clearly, you should check the laws in your state, and know which regulations apply and what requirements your telehealth benefits must meet to stay compliant.

Have you thought about implementing telehealth? What concerns are at the top of your list? Share in the comments below!