Cost-effective online doctor consultations are quickly replacing expensive and time-consuming local doctor visits for many cases. Telemedicine expands a patients access to care, increases convenience, reduces travel time,  and delivers service at a lower cost. As an emerging player in modernized healthcare, the global telemedicine market is valued at around $18 billion in 2015 and projected to skyrocket to over $40 billion by 2021.

Despite its incredible potential, employers continue to struggle with low employee utilization of telemedicine services. In many cases, employees are confused, hesitant, or just unaware of the offerings available to them. For any employer who is serious about fully capturing the benefits of telemedicine, it’s crucial to choose the right telemedicine provider– one that does its job well and engages with employees to drive down healthcare costs. When it comes to selecting a telemedicine provider, asking a few questions can make the difference between an underutilized tool and a game-changing service that redefines how people view healthcare.

How does the telemedicine provider engage the user?

It’s not enough for a telemedicine service to merely list a phone number and hope that users will take the initiative to make the call. Not only are phone calls no longer the preferred mode of communication, but people today need constant contact to be top of mind. Whether it’s through a chat-based platform or simple reminder notifications, outbound campaigns that keep a telemedicine service top of mind are integral to staying relevant in today’s age of information overload. Passively offering a telemedicine service is like opening a store and not putting a sign on the door– no one will know it exists.

A provider that offers an integrated health solution, rather than a single solution, can be useful in guiding users to utilize telemedicine. If users are coming to a platform to access a wide variety of healthcare and benefits-related services, there is more opportunity to redirect them to telemedicine. With highly successful platforms, around 50% of telemedicine consults are initiated by members who came to the service for a different reason (e.g., searching for a local doctor) and were redirected to an online consultation. A provider offering a single, siloed service will never gain as much traction as an integrated platform that brings users in through a wide range of channels.

Do they integrate complementary services to enrich the offering?

Because healthcare consists of a web of several different players (employers, insurers, providers, and more), the best telemedicine providers offer a service that integrates within the bigger picture of an employee’s benefits package. If the ultimate goal is to contain rising medical costs and drive employees to make smarter healthcare decisions, telemedicine providers must combine forces with offerings like an employee benefits wallet, 401k and HSA accounts, appointment scheduling, and more.

Once you combine all these aspects of patient care through a single platform, you have a one-stop-shop where all healthcare needs can be taken care of, which simplifies the user experience dramatically. Integrating these components into one platform will also drive up utilization as users can keep coming back to a single app or website as the home base for all their benefits needs and information.

All in all, when you unite several components of employee benefits through a common platform, they help inform one another and lead to the best possible outcome for the user. Seek out a provider that integrates telemedicine into the grander scheme of employee benefits.

Do they offer pre- and post-consultation support?

Another way that quality telemedicine providers engage with patients is through pre-consultation support and guidance, as well as post-consultation follow-up. Accessing care through telemedicine is a new experience for most, and can be intimidating at first. A good telemedicine provider will guide and educate users in a way that makes the process go smoothly with minimal confusion. It should be clear how to reach a doctor, how long the process will take, and exactly which medical conditions can be treated through an online doctor consultation.

A provider that goes above and beyond will also integrate with services that exist in the patient’s real-world environment. It may store data on local doctors and pharmacies in case the user needs to reach out to a provider in-person. It should also leverage this information to craft individualized provider and facility recommendations based on their insurance plan – especially in an emergency.

Just as important as a telemedicine provider’s pre-consultation guidance offerings is their follow-up procedure. Follow-up may be as simple as a message delivered to the user’s inbox summarizing their diagnosis, prescription information, and care instructions/next steps. Patients should be prompted with the option to send this information to their primary care physician, and the results should also be stored locally to provide a more personalized member experience over time. Lastly, a great telemedicine provider will ask members about the quality of their experience, to ensure that the service was high caliber and enjoyable for the user.

Is the telemedicine easy to use?

A simple, refined member experience on a centralized platform are the hallmarks of a quality benefits product that employees will be eager to utilize. It can be hard to find a genuinely modernized and effective benefits experience, so discovering one will win you points across the board. Everyone in your workplace, from the newfangled techie to the older employee whose age is beginning to catch up with them, will thank you for simplifying their healthcare experience. Asking the right questions about your telemedicine provider will ensure you find the one that your employees won’t be able to live without.

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