We live in a digital age where every aspect of people’s personal and professional lives is increasingly conducted in the cloud. Companies and employees alike are adapting to and taking advantage of new possibilities for remote working, continuous communication, and other technology to fuel creativity and collaboration. But this same technology can make just as big an impact on your business’s healthcare costs. Businesses are used to the idea that meetings do not have to be conducted in person, and more and more are discovering that many medical visits do not, either.
The percentage of employers who offer a telemedicine program has doubled since 2015, according to a Mercer survey. That’s because it’s an effective strategy to reduce healthcare costs by encouraging employees to get treatment that heads off future healthcare expenses while preventing unnecessary doctor’s office, urgent care, and ER visits. In fact, the average savings per single employee annually is $300 according to the AMA, and that number goes up to $1000 per year for a family of four. Given that benefits like healthcare makeup 25-40% of most companies’ payroll expenses, tackling healthcare expenses through telehealth seems like a worthwhile investment for any growing business. Especially since it is easy to implement and requires minimal upfront investment.
Best of all, implementing telehealth is a cost-cutting measure that actually increases the standard of care for your employees. That means that they are happier and healthier, making them more productive and engaged team members. So telehealth can boost your revenue and help you maintain a stable workforce while it reduces your healthcare costs.
So how exactly does telehealth generate savings which can help give SMBs the financial stability they need to grow? In this article we will explore how telehealth generates:
• Short-term savings from reduced cost of care
• Increased revenue due to employee performance
• Long-term savings
Reduced Cost of Care Generates Short-Term Savings
The clearest cost-cutting benefit to implementing telehealth is that employees will opt to get their medical advice digitally instead of by going to a doctor’s office, urgent care, or ER. These savings can add up quickly as telehealth consultations cost an average of $40, compared to $125 for equivalent office visits. So not only will your healthcare costs go down, but your employees’ out-of-pocket costs will too.
The biggest savings come from averted emergency room visits. Telehealth is highly effective in staving off these extremely expensive visits when employees have unexpected healthcare needs. A study of a telemedicine platform in Pennsylvania found that the majority of employee health concerns were resolved in a single virtual-consultation and that the telemedicine option generated short-term savings by diverting patients from higher-cost options. Each avoided emergency room visit saved $300-$1500, which can make a significant impact on growing businesses worried about maintaining their bottom line.
Telehealth provides employees with a convenient and affordable alternative to a wide range of traditional healthcare services that can incur significant healthcare expenses. That means that implementing a telehealth platform reduces short-term costs for employers and employees alike. It also means that employers will be able to negotiate lower premiums because their employees present a lower risk for insurers.
Increased Revenue from Employee Performance
The savings from diverting employees away from high-cost consultation and treatment options might be exceeded by the revenue generated from fostering a healthier and more engaged workforce. Making healthcare more accessible and affordable for your employees means that they will take advantage of it more often and receive the treatment that they need, making them more high-performing team members. Also, because telehealth can be accessed immediately and from anywhere, employees will not have to choose between going to work and getting medical advice. As a result, employers who implement a home telehealth platform can expect their employees to take fewer sick days due to doctor’s appointments.
Reducing absenteeism generates significant cost savings from increased worker productivity by itself, but it is just the tip of the iceberg. Healthier employees are more productive, straight and simple and telemedicine can help keep them that way. In the current employment and healthcare climate, employees frequently avoid treatment until an illness gets “bad enough”; which means that they come into work sick for extended periods. That’s bad news for companies because sick team members are less productive while collecting the same salary and benefits, and worse still can infect other employees. Getting treatment as soon as issues arise ensures that employees get back to peak performance as quickly as possible.
Home telehealth also streamlines the healthcare experience for employees and saves them significant time and money. That doesn’t just make them healthy and able to work but also makes them happier and more satisfied with their work. It is an additional benefit which makes your employees feel well taken care of, increasing their loyalty and their engagement with your company. Growing businesses can struggle to compete with larger companies to attract, engage, and retain the talent they need to succeed partially because their smaller budget limits the range of benefits that they can offer. Telehealth is a great way for these businesses to stand out for their meaningful benefits program while simultaneously reducing costs.
Long Term Savings
Home telehealth is not just about getting treatment when illness strikes: it also makes it easier to access preventive care and ongoing treatment for chronic conditions. As such, it can prevent significant future healthcare expenses from treating preventable or neglected conditions.
Employees are increasingly foregoing primary care visits and other preventive services. The total number of trips to primary care doctors dropped by 18% between 2012 and 2016. This issue is particularly great among Millennials, a third of whom do not even have a primary care doctor. That can become a big problem for employers as Millennials continue to make up a larger percentage of the workforce. Primary care can help identify potential issues before they become costly and damaging to the patient and provide holistic guidance that increases overall health. Telehealth can help fill in this gap, especially for tech-savvy Millennials.
Telehealth can also provide easy and affordable access to wellness benefits by helping to identify risk factors and guide employees through prevention. This matters because 70% of employer healthcare expenses come from preventable lifestyle-related conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, and lung cancer. Telemedicine consultations can help employees figure out what challenges they need to address and can help guide employees through the process of tackling those challenges. For example, telehealth platforms can give employees access to advice and consultation to support weight loss and smoking or alcohol cessation.
Using telehealth to manage treatment for chronic conditions can also lead to significant ongoing savings. People with chronic conditions account for three-quarters of doctor’s visits and nine out of ten prescriptions so managing their health effectively and cost-efficiently should be a priority for any employer. Telemedicine can make this care easier to get and cheaper for employee and company alike, reducing those doctor’s office visits and hospital stays. Employees can access advice about medication management quickly and easily while incurring fewer expenses for themselves and their employer. These savings can be especially great when combined with mail-order prescription fulfillment. And the long-term savings add up when you consider the significant healthcare expenses that can result from untreated, undertreated, or mistreated chronic conditions, all of which can result from under-utilization of healthcare options due to cost and inconvenience.
The last and frequently overlooked area in which telehealth can save your business money is in mental healthcare. Insurers, providers, and employers are beginning to recognize the importance of mental health in addition to physical health, but the infrastructure is still catching up to employee needs. Even when options are available, employees often avoid accessing mental healthcare because it is stigmatized and because regular psychologist or psychiatrist visits are too much of a hassle. Luckily, telemedicine has proven to be an effective method to treat mental health and is cost-effective for employers compared to in-person visits. Not only that, but it is more convenient and private than traditional treatment, making it more appealing to employees. That means that you can reduce employee burnout, underperformance, and turnover due to untreated mental conditions such as depression or anxiety. You will pay less for care and your employees will be happier and more engaged in their work, making them more valuable team members.
Home telehealth is a constantly expanding field and there is no way for us to cover every aspect of how it can improve your employees’ healthcare and your bottom-line in one article. But hopefully, we have given you a sense of how telehealth can play an essential role in your efforts to control healthcare costs. Just remember:
• Telehealth appointments are significantly cheaper than traditional alternatives and prevent costly ER and office visits
• The affordability and convenience of telehealth means that it can make your employees healthier and more productive, helping your business grow sustainably
• Telehealth can reduce ongoing and future healthcare expenses by supporting preventive care, managing treatment for chronic conditions, and providing mental healthcare
If you want to cut your business’s healthcare expenses while still attracting and retaining the talent you need to grow your business, telehealth should be just one part of your strategy. We will be hosting a comprehensive webinar to address how CFOs and business leaders can curb healthcare costs on September 19th at 11 AM CST. Learn from industry experts in benefits administration, telehealth, and more so that you can effectively manage your healthcare expenses. Register today!