COVID-19 has caused many drastic changes in our business operations, the exponential growth in telemedicine's availability and acceptance being among the more positive ones. We take a look at the ramifications for employers' benefits packages and workers' wellbeing.
Why Telemedicine Boomed in 2020
The technology for teleconference or VOiP consultations with healthcare professionals has been around for a while, mainly in the form of HMO-required nurse hotlines to screen patients and avoid emergency care costs. However, the medical establishment of doctors and hospitals resisted any more extensive use, citing the necessity for in-person diagnosis. They were also concerned about reduced payments for telemed as opposed to office visits and ultimately, the replacement of human doctors with machine learning avatars.
With the onset of COVID-19, these objections were forced to take a back seat. Patients were afraid or unable to visit doctor's offices and hospitals in person; medical facilities were swamped with coronavirus patients and couldn't handle any other routine or urgent care. Now the choice for most people was either remote care or no care at all. The result was delayed care, poorer outcomes and more expensive medical bills.
In response, obstacles to the implementation of telemedicine benefits were rapidly removed. The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services empowered HIPAA-covered providers to deliver telehealth services. The CMS allowed people enrolled in Medicare, Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) to receive telehealth services, and allowed providers to bill for a remote visit at the same rate as an in-person one.
The government websites are still referring to these changes as "temporary." However, now that nearly all employer group health insurance plans include a telemedicine benefit, it will be hard to take that benefit away once people are used to having it.
Why Employees Love Telemedicine
Aside from COVID-19 issues, there are longstanding problems with the healthcare delivery system that telemedicine can alleviate.
Why Employers Love Telemedicine
These advantages will last long after the pandemic is finished.
Telemedicine for Business Continuity
Employee health and safety are taking high priority right now; and it's clear that telemedicine is an essential part of business continuity plans. By minimizing absenteeism and protecting the workplace from the spread of infectious disease, it's a valuable tool for preventing operational disruptions.
At Integrity, we're providing virtual care options for both physical and mental health concerns to all of our employees, associates and their families — all of which they can use without incurring added deductions or copays to their benefits package. We believe that employee wellbeing isn't important only to themselves, but to the health of the entire organization.