Virtual visits and telehealth are exciting new ways to improve access to care, reduce healthcare costs, and improve patient outcomes. As Canopy Health looks forward to launching our Virtual Visit program in the fall, we want brokers to understand how telehealth can benefit employers and members alike.
What Is Telehealth?
Telehealth uses information and communications technology to help diagnose, treat, educate, and monitor patients. It delivers long-distance healthcare to patients with time constraints, who need access to a specialist unavailable in their community, or struggle with transportation and mobility issues. Studies have also suggested that telehealth is particularly appealing to Millennials.
Common forms of telehealth include:
- Live Video Consultations: Patients receive one-on-one video consultation with a physician or medical provider. (Canopy Health Video Visits typically offer live video consultations.)
- Mobile Health: Health providers and patients communicate through texts and alerts on a smartphone, tablet, or other electronic device.
- Store and Forward Systems: Patients complete forms, answer questionnaires, and might even send recordings or images through a secure portal. A doctor reviews their information remotely, makes a diagnosis, and sends them treatment recommendations.
- Remote Patient Monitoring: Physicians monitor a patient’s chronic conditions and vital signs remotely, with the aim of avoiding complications. Remote testing might include blood sugar levels, oxygen saturation levels, blood pressure, and heart rate.
Telehealth is a rapidly developing technology. As more and more healthcare plans, facilities, and patients embrace virtual visits and telehealth, the field will continue to develop and improve.
Virtual Visits Offer Significant Benefits to Employers and Employees
As healthcare costs rise and information and communications technologies improve, more and more healthcare organizations and employers are turning to telehealth to improve healthcare and cut costs. Emergency department bills can cost thousands of dollars (or more), and a trip to the urgent care can also be expensive. While virtual visit costs vary, the Wall Street Journal reports the average telehealth bill is $45. John Muir Health eVisits are only $25, roughly the cost of an office visit co-pay.
Members aren’t the only ones who are saving money. For example, the Veterans’ Administration began implementing telehealth options in the 1990s. By 2012, it served over 150,000 veterans through its various telehealth programs. The VA estimates they save $6,500 per patient who uses telehealth options, due to decreased hospitalizations and lower operating costs.
According to one survey, 96% of large-group employers now offer telehealth services to their employees. However, many employees don’t understand the benefits of telehealth and do not take full advantage of these options. If employees embraced virtual visits, employers would likely experience even larger cost savings.
How Can Telehealth Improve Bay Area Wellness?
Life in the Bay Area offers many challenges. We face long commutes and intense workdays, and many of us have unique medical needs. Telehealth and virtual visits can improve our wellness by:
- Improving Access to Care: Members with mobility and transportation issues can seek prompt medical care, potentially avoiding unnecessary complications. Some telehealth programs also give patients access to specialists and providers they might not otherwise have access to.
- Creating Efficiencies: Rather than driving to a facility and waiting in an urgent care or emergency room, members can save themselves time by logging in for a virtual visit. Members do not need an appointment for a virtual visit, and Canopy Health’s programs will be available 24/7.
- Reducing Healthcare Costs: Compared to an emergency room visit, a virtual visit is relatively inexpensive. Some employers have experienced tens of thousands of dollars in savings by offering an effective telehealth program to their employees.
We believe our growing alliance and new Virtual Visit program will significantly improve our members’ healthcare experience while lowering costs.
Canopy Health Virtual Visits will not require an appointment. Instead, members will have a one-on-one consultation with a skilled healthcare provider by video or telephone call. While Virtual Visits are not appropriate for serious acute health conditions (like head trauma, chest pain, or seizures), they can address a wide variety of common, non-emergency medical issues.
Beck, M. (2016, June 26). How telemedicine is transforming health care. Wall Street Journal. Retrieved from https://www.wsj.com/articles/how-telemedicine-is-transforming-health-care-1466993402
Mehrotra, A., Hangsheng, L., Adams, J., Wang, M., Lave, J., Thygeson, M., Solberg, L., McGlynn, E. (2009, September 1). Comparing costs and quality of care at retail clinics with that of other medical settings for 3 common illnesses. Annals of Internal Medicine. Retrieved from http://annals.org/aim/article-abstract/744702/comparing-costs-quality-care-retail-clinics-other-medical-settings-3
Siwicki, B. (2017, November 6). Employee telehealth tools save Cuyahoga County thousands. Healthcare IT News. Retrieved from http://www.healthcareitnews.com/news/employee-telehealth-tools-save-cuyahoga-county-thousands
Telehealth: Helping hospitals deliver cost-effective care. (2016, April 22). American Hospital Association. Retrieved from https://www.aha.org/system/files/content/16/16telehealthissuebrief.pdf