Getting People to Use Telemedicine

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24/7 physician access by phone or video has the potential to do great things for health plans and consumers. Getting a doctor’s help without waiting in a medical office is a great convenience, especially if you’re traveling or your primary care physician is unavailable. The challenge, however, is that telemedicine does not sell itself – it needs to be communicated over and over again if we want members to remember they have this great, easy-to-use benefit instead of driving to an urgent care center. Technology is great, but it won’t activate itself. People are creatures of habit and it takes a good deal of effort to change behavior. Low tech tactics like email reminders, flyers or refrigerator magnets may just be what the doctor ordered when trying to drive home the benefits of telemedicine.

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Help Pass the HSA Improvement Act

United States Capitol Building

On March 1, Representatives Mike Kelly (R-PA) and Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) introduced H.R. 5138, the Bipartisan HSA Improvement Act. The legislation includes several provisions NAHU has advocated in recent years to address issues with HSAs and employer-sponsored coverage.

The legislation seeks to promote flexibility, encourage innovation and expand access to HSAs by aligning HSA regulations with the most effective cost-containment strategies that will help consumers save money and stay healthy.

Specifically, the legislation would:

  • allow HSA plans to offer pre-deductible coverage of health services at onsite employee clinics and retail health clinics.
  • allow HSA plans to offer pre-deductible coverage for services and medication that manage chronic conditions.
  • permit the use of HSA dollars toward wellness benefits, including exercise and other expenses associated with physical activity.
  • clarify that employers can offer “excepted benefits” like telehealth and second-opinion services to employees with a HSA plan.
  • correct the definition of “dependents,” streamline FSA conversion and fix the prohibition on a spouse using a HSA.

Contact your representative today! NAHU is calling on all members to send an Operation Shout asking your member of Congress to support H.R. 5138. You can also call your state representative.

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Empowering Employees: Big Talk, Little Action

dg-empoweringTelemedicine offers a lot of potential for everyone – added convenience for busy families and lower costs than a traditional office visit. But as helpful as this service can be, it will only make a difference if it is used.

Low utilization is not unique to telemedicine. It’s a common problem with many new, well designed and well-intended health care services. Encouraging plan members to actually use new offerings is a challenge for employer groups, large and small. And while utilization is often higher in self-funded health plans, all employers need help turning talk into action. Here are a few ideas to consider:

It’s all about them – With health care consuming more of everyone’s income and attention, we all have a vested interest in our benefits. And while wonderful tools like telemedicine keep coming to the table, you need to look at these offerings from your member’s perspective rather than your own. Talk with your employees; ask if a service will help them and listen to their feedback. If it can add real value to your employee’s lives, utilization will follow.

Talk about health, not cost – Research indicates that when it comes to their health and well-being, there are many things members would prefer to hear about than fees and costs. A majority are interested in improving their health. It takes time, but focusing on current health risks and personalizing communications as much as possible will help members want to get more engaged.

Educate to empower – Transparency tools and online portals are no different than other modern advances. If people don’t understand them, they will never catch on. Like telemedicine, unless employees understand how to use it and when they can use it, they will never realize the benefit of having an experienced, board certified physician, with access to their medical records, available to help them 24/7.

While it seems that other new disruptive innovations, such as Alexa, catch fire overnight, they do take time. Since your employee communication budget likely pales in comparison to those driving consumers to Amazon, talk with your TPA about new ways to zero in on the needs of your employees. Doing so can lead to increased utilization and a happier, healthier workforce in 2018 and beyond.

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Strong Growth Forecast for Telemedicine

This article was published on January 15, 2018 on HealthLeaders Media, written by John Commins.

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Telemedicine has been a hot topic in healthcare for some time. And, while plenty of content has discussed its potential of added convenience and lower costs, plenty of other content has pointed out its low utilization. It’s true that most people are not pursuing the consumer-like behaviors that telemedicine can offer, such as video doctor visits via mobile device or prescription drug cost comparison tools. However, the article included below recently discussed the strides that Teladoc, a telemedicine provider, made in 2017, leading some in the industry to expect fast growth within the telemedicine space.

At Diversified Group, we believe strongly in telemedicine and we offer telemedicine solutions. We work closely with our clients to help them zero in on the needs of their employees and explore possible cost control measures, such as telemedicine. Please read the full article below.

The industry is riding sustained tailwinds that will push growth 30% to more than 40% in coming years. Factors include a growing dearth of clinicians, an aging population, and technological innovations that will improve patient access and experience.

If Teladoc, Inc. is a bellwether for the telemedicine industry, the outlook is bright.

Jason Gorevic, CEO of the Purchase, NY-based telemedicine provider, called 2017 “a landmark year as we redefined the virtual care delivery landscape with our acquisition of Best Doctors.”

“Through rapid integration, Teladoc has brought to market innovation that gives members a single point of access for a wide array of medical needs. We are seeing a tremendous reception from both clients and prospects to this unique, comprehensive solution,” he said.

Preliminary numbers provided by Teladoc support Gorevic’s claims. According to unaudited 2017 financial results, the company saw:

  • Total revenues of $232 million, an 88% increase over 2016
  • Total membership of 23 million, a 31% increase over 2016
  • Total visits of 1.46 million, a 53% increase over 2016, and representing utilization of 7%, compared to 6% utilization in 2016.

Teladoc finished 2017 on an upswing, with unaudited fourth quarter results showing:

  • Total revenues of $76 million, a 103% increase over 2016
  • Total adjusted EBITDA of $2.5 million compared to a loss of $8 million in the fourth quarter 2016
  • Total visits of 460,000, a 48% increase over 2016, and representing utilization of 2%, compared to 1.8% utilization during the same period in 2016

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With More Education and Engagement, Telemedicine Could Change the Future of Healthcare

dgb-telemedicineBy now most have heard of the technology that is said to be ‘shaping the future of healthcare’. Many consider telemedicine, also referred to as telehealth, to be a viable option for care, bringing incredible value to patients by offering both convenience and efficiency. But, maybe you’re not yet convinced. Or, maybe you’re not fully 
certain it’s a strategy your clients or your employees can benefit from or would fully utilize.

At Diversified Group, we believe strongly in telemedicine. And, here’s why… In an industry that continues to shift towards value-based 
care, telemedicine can improve access to care while reducing costs. How can it be so simple? Because, telemedicine and electronic communications are changing the way patients can be treated – letting plan members connect with a doctor via smartphone, tablet or smart TV 
to obtain a diagnosis, determine a treatment plan or get a prescription without having to leave their home or office. And, when using these over the phone or face-to-face video visits as a first point of contact they can substitute lengthy trips to the physician’s office, prevent trips to the ER and avoid costly health claims.

Taking it one step further, thanks to mobile apps, more and more patients are able to use telemedicine to stay proactive and healthy by monitoring vital signs and maintaining a healthy lifestyle with tools such as personalized wellness coaching – all of which ultimately keep consumers out of primary care facilities, doctor’s offices and the ER. It really is that simple.

Not everyone may be convinced of the benefits that telemedicine can offer to employer groups and plan members. 
But one thing is for certain – this is not just a short-lived trend. With increasing actions being taken to legitimize 
telemedicine, we continue to recommend and offer solutions such as RealTimeTelemed (powered by HealthiestYou) 
and TelaDoc, which offer plan members consumer-empowering tools, including 24/7/365 access to a network of doctors and prescription drug cost comparison tools.

For 50 years, Diversified Group has worked closely with clients to meet their health insurance needs. We have the 
experience to know the importance of thinking through the potential impact of cost control measures, including 
telemedicine and easier provider access. And, because we strive to explore any and all possibilities to provide quality, affordable healthcare plans, we can help you determine what is best for your covered group. Contact us today!

For more information on Telemedicine, 
contact Diversified Group Today.

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TeleMedicine Continues to Grow

telemedicineIf you haven’t interacted with a doctor by smart phone, email or webcam recently, you’ll be interested to know that the American Telemedicine Association reports that more than 15 million Americans received some kind of medical care remotely last year.

For those employed by a large company or living in a major metro area, it is common to view telemedicine as a virtual doctor visit or a substitute for an in-person office visit. The fact is that electronic communications are impacting the delivery of healthcare in many ways.

  • Some doctors are consulting with one another to make critical decisions on heart attack and stroke victims.
  • Patients are using smart phones to relay blood pressure, heart rate and other vital signs to their doctors in order to better manage chronic conditions.
  • Virtual Care Centers are providing remote support to ICUs and ERs in small, rural hospitals where a physician may not be on site 24/7.

Many question whether the quality of care is keeping pace with the rapid expansion of telemedicine, and state rules governing telemedicine are constantly evolving. At the same time, health plans and a growing number of members view the services as a convenient way to get medical care without leaving home or work.

The AMA recently approved new ethical guidelines for telemedicine, calling for participating doctors to recognize its limitations and ensure that sufficient information is available before making a clinical recommendation. With existing telemedicine providers expanding and major teaching institutions gearing up, there appears to be no slowdown in sight.

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5 steps to better care at lower costs for your sickest employees

Article as seen in Benefits Pro on October 12, 2016 written by Cindi A. Slater M.D.

Open enrollment is upon us and for the majority of employers, that means offering employees a high deductible health plan. It is also the time of year when benefits professionals are most likely to remind employees to shop around when using their health care and invite them to engage with a price transparency tool. And yet if you focus solely on these strategies, you may be missing a monumental opportunity to curb your health care spending while also improving your employees’ health.

The bulk of employer health care spending on an annual basis is driven by the care provided to a handful of very high cost employees, like the employee with multiple chronic conditions or the employee with recurrent cancer. A new report out from the American Health Policy Institute and Leavitt Partners documents that among 26 large employers, 1.2 percent of employees are high cost claimants who comprise 31 percent of total health care spending.  High deductible health plans do nothing to contain costs for these employees who quickly meet their deductible. Benefits professionals need a multi-pronged strategy to improve care and contain costs for this special population.

Many employers have already deployed one common strategy designed especially for employees with multiple chronic conditions: wellness. But the jury is still out on the ROI of engaging the sick to exercise and eat better. To understand how we can save dollars while improving care, we need to take a closer look at the five critical points in an employee’s health care journey where costs can jump suddenly and dramatically. Then we can better understand the strategies and tools benefits professionals have at their disposal to intervene during these critical moments. Continue reading