3 key questions to ask about telehealth benefits

Article as seen in Employee Benefit Adviser on October 11, 2016, written by Stephany Verstraete

Today widespread confusion persists regarding what is required to unleash the powerful cost savings potential of a robust telehealth benefit. Articles whitewash the landscape with talk of “average utilization rates,” and “check-the-box” options promising to do it all. The reality is while a telehealth benefit can be a highly effective tool in the fight against rising claims and premium costs, it is only effective if you choose the right partner and the right solution for a given client’s needs; otherwise you are just leaving money on the table.

This can present a challenge for decision makers: how to select the telehealth solution that is the best fit for you and your clients. We suggest first looking at the solution you have, or are contemplating, and asking these three, straightforward questions:

1) What do I expect to gain from offering a telehealth benefit?

Your decision process should begin with evaluating and prioritizing your client’s strategic business objectives. These might include: increasing healthcare access for hard-to-reach employees, creating meaningful cost savings through redirection, and establishing a best-in-industry benefits package to compete for top talent. Then look closely at details such as plan design, care access, delivery choices and fee structure — options designed to best ensure the path you choose is equipped to deliver on your expectations. Ask to see a proven track record with similar clients.

Further, don’t be afraid to set high expectations. The right telehealth solution represents an innovative opportunity to deliver on a wide range of important objectives.

2) What should I expect my utilization to be?

Once you’ve determined your telehealth objectives, it is important to deliberate on what it will take to realize these goals. And more often than not, objectives depend on utilization.

Telehealth utilization rates are highly dependent on three key variables: plan design, consumer awareness and the quality of the experience. With research showing less than half of Americans are familiar with telemedicine, and less than a quarter have tried it, we are far from “if you offer it, they will come.”

3) How do I maximize my savings?

Some brokers share that their clients ask, “Should I invest in a per-employee-per-month model?” And the answer is straightforward: realizing meaningful cost savings through telehealth is only achievable with investment in a partner proven to drive behavior change and deliver a quality care experience that is on par with, if not superior to, other options available. Consumers today demand choice, and businesses demand ease of implementation and administration. Taking the time upfront to understand what you are really getting for your money, and what the full costs will be to accomplish your specific goals, will allow you to reap the benefits over the lifetime of your contract.

Net net, don’t be fooled by smoke and mirrors, or oversimplified calculations. Do your homework, ask the right questions, and you’ll be confident you made the right decision.

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