On the road to telehealth, there are many different choices and considerations employers need to contemplate before choosing the offerings and provider that are right for them. But before implementing telemedicine into your benefits package, there are some important questions you need to ask yourself. These questions will inevitably affect which telehealth vendor you choose to work with, and the offerings you decide to implement. Here are the top questions to ask before implementing telemedicine:
On the road to telehealth adoption, there are many different factors employers need to take into consideration to determine which offerings and vendors are right for them. This set of questions will guide you during your search, choose who to work with, and help you ultimately implement a successful program:
Did you have a visit?
Telehealth offerings differ in many ways, and you need to understand exactly what you’re signing up for. The best way to do that is to test the product yourself by having an online doctor’s visit. During the visit, ask yourself these questions:
- Is it straightforward or confusing to sign up?
- Is it easy and intuitive to select and connect with a doctor of your choice?
- Would your employees be able to use the program easily and effectively?
These may seem like simple questions, but you’d be surprised how often they can be overlooked. The main goal of telehealth is to make medical care quick, convenient, and affordable without sacrificing quality of care; but if the process isn’t seamless, your employees will never use the service and reap its benefits.
When do you plan to launch?
Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to launch telehealth with you annual benefits cycle. In fact, often it’s better to launch telehealth off-cycle to help highlight the benefit to employees without added distractions. Once you decide what works best for your business and when you’re going to launch, you need to work with your vendor to set up a practice, tailor communications to employees, and ensure health plan notification and carrier readiness.
How quickly do you want to launch?
It’s important to set timeframe goals for a launch, and then compare them to vendor launch plans to see if they’re realistic. Knowing exactly how long it will take to bring telehealth to market is essential for scheduling an effective launch date. Telehealth vendors should be transparent in communicating what a launch entails, including setup, design, benchmarks, marketing initiatives, and more.
Who will you offer telehealth to?
Will you offer it to employees and dependents, or will you offer it only to employees who take advantage of employer health benefits? The choice is ultimately yours, but we believe that by making telehealth available to all employees and dependents, you realize higher cost savings and see more wide-spread use.
Will you add a kiosk to your telehealth offering?
Some employees use telehealth kiosks to provide an on-site clinic for employees. If you already have some form of on-site clinic or care service, you have to decide if you will replace it with a kiosk or integrate a kiosk into your current on-site offerings. These questions are critical when considering kiosks:
- Does the experience require that the kiosk be staffed or can it operate unstaffed?
- Does the telehealth vendor provide their own kiosk and support, or do they outsource it from a third-party vendor?
Do the cost savings make sense?
Many employers turn to telehealth not only to provide their employees with a great benefit, but to reduce medical costs and save money. Compared to urgent care and emergency visit options, telehealth costs a fraction of the price; even with primary care visits, telehealth is typically a better value. This means if only a portion of your employees’ replace their traditional healthcare visits with telehealth visits, your cost savings can be substantial. That being said, it’s important to have an ROI model that is based on your expected costs. Don’t rely on averages. Make sure the telehealth vendor works with you to create a realistic and attainable ROI model based on your company’s unique telehealth goals.
Are you integrating telehealth into your current benefits package?
Integrating telehealth with your health plan allows for automated eligibility and claims. Real-time eligibility calls are used to verify coverage, services, and copays for your employees, while claims are generated automatically so doctors don’t have to focus on paperwork—just patients. Whichever vendor you choose should be experienced in these types of integrations, as well as be able to work with any health plan you select.
How are you going to communicate?
Unlike most healthcare services that offer open enrollment once a year and then go radio silent, a telehealth provider can actually provide ongoing communications throughout the year. Make sure you ask yourself how and how often you want to communicate the benefits to your employees. It’s also important to ask vendors if they help provide that ongoing communication. Communication about the service drives utilization, which in turn drives cost savings. If employees are unaware of the benefit, they won’t use it. It’s up to you and your vendor to education and inform in the most effective way possible.
How will you track utilization?
Once you have successfully implemented telehealth, it’s important to track utilization. Utilization not only shows how many employees are taking advantage of the benefits; it can also give you a glimpse into how accurate your ROI model is. Be sure to ask vendors if they provide utilization reports by month and year so you can track progress and cost savings over time.