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Telemedicine Benefits Guide


Make this underutilized benefit work for your company.

Table of Contents

Why a telemedicine benefit is essential
How telemedicine drives down costs
The big issue facing most telemedicine benefits
Making a telemedicine benefit work for your company
Accelerate cost-containment and improve outcomes with a telemedicine benefit

Why a telemedicine benefit is essential

Telemedicine use is growing at an exponential rate. In the US, 72% of employers offered a telemedicine benefit in 2019, up from just 23% in 2016. Another report estimates that the global market will expand from $38 billion to $130 billion over the next six years.

Telemedicine is an essential benefit for employees everywhere. That’s more true now than ever before. For one thing, the healthcare experience is a disappointing one for consumers and employers alike (see Why The Healthcare Experience Is Broken). The cost of healthcare is rising at an alarming rate. The latest data suggests the cost to employers will top $15,000 per employee in 2020. Employees aren’t spared from this trend, either. More of them than ever before are enrolled in high-deductible health plans, meaning they bear a higher portion of financial responsibility for rising costs (see our post Why Telemedicine Use is Skyrocketing for more).

The popularity of telemedicine can also be explained by the changing nature of our workforce. Surveys show workers now expect remote work options. A 2018 IWG survey found 70 percent of professionals worked remotely at least one day per week. The mobile workforce needs on-the-go benefits to keep up with their non-traditional working arrangements (see Why Your Mobile Workforce Needs On-The-Go Benefits for more).

Why Your Mobile Workforce Needs On-The-Go Benefits
In the air or on the road — many of today’s workers are often on-the-go. In the last decade, the smartphone has given employees constant…
Learn more »

If a company wants to succeed, embracing a mobile-first outlook including employee benefits is the way to go. According to a report by The Economist, employees who identified their organization as “pioneers” in the use of mobile technologies scored 16 percent higher for productivity than others who described their organization’s use of mobile technology as “bad.”

These metrics continue to matter as more mobile-first Gen Z employees enter the workforce, but older workers love this technology, too. For Baby Boomers, those who in 2020 are between 56 and 74, smartphone adoption is steadily climbing. Ninety-six percent of Americans now own a cellphone, and the majority of those—81%— are smartphones, according to the Pew Research Center. For comparison, only 75% of Americans own a personal computer. Ninety-one percent of those 65 and over own a cellphone; 53% own a smartphone. That’s relevant to employers because that same group of older Americans are working at higher rates than in previous decades. The Pew Research Center analysis of 2018 labor force data found that 29% of Boomers ages 65 to 72 were working or looking for work.


Of cellphone users have smartphones


of Americans over 65 own a smartphone


Of Baby Boomers were employed or looking for work in 2018

If you’re employing Baby Boomers, the assumption that they won’t adopt mobile-first technology is just plain wrong. Anecdotally, we find that many prefer to use a mobile application. In 2014, almost 20% of our membership used a landline to access HealthJoy. Today less than 5% of members prefer dialing in over chatting in the app. When it comes to health benefits, a mobile-first approach simplifies the user experience for a population that is more likely to need healthcare. See Why Baby Boomers are Flocking to Healthcare Apps for more.

Finally, a telemedicine benefit provides a vital lifeline for specific populations who may not otherwise have access to care. According to Aging In Place, it can provide comfort and support to seniors between medical appointments and bridge gaps in care.

The blue-collar and rural workforces also need a solution that isn’t location-dependent. Nearly 20% of the population of the United States lives in rural communities. The population of primary care physicians in these communities isn’t meeting their needs

There are only about 40 primary care physicians per 100,000 residents in rural areas, as compared with 53 per 100,000 in urban areas. Without local primary care services, many rural residents rely on hospitals as centers of care. Lack of choice means higher healthcare spending (see Healthcare App Adoption & Blue-Collar Workforce and This Benefit is Vital for Rural Employees for more).

Ultimately, telemedicine is one of our best options for lowering costs, improving outcomes, and driving employee satisfaction with their health benefits.

healthjoy resources

Why The Healthcare Experience Is Broken »

Why Telemedicine Use is Skyrocketing »

Why Your Mobile Workforce Needs On-The-Go Benefits »

Why Baby Boomers are Flocking to Healthcare Apps »

Healthcare App Adoption & Blue-Collar Workforce  »

This Benefit is Vital for Rural Employees  »

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How a telemedicine drives down costs

The power of a telemedicine benefit to drive down costs is rooted in its dependability and ease of use.

Telemedicine keeps employees from making high-cost or out-of-network provider visits. When employees have a virtual healthcare option, they avoid expensive claims from unnecessary visits to local doctors and urgent care, or even a potential ER visit. The emergency room is notoriously expensive, and ER’s can charge a facility fee of several hundred dollars just for walking in their doors. Patients who need care for minor bumps and bruises, infections, or simply because they’re scared will pay dearly for a trip to the ER. Users have reported that up to 8% of telemedicine visits are in place of an ER visit. In these cases, a telemedicine benefit can save thousands of dollars (see Three Ways We Save You Money with Care Redirection for more).

Our current health insurance climate also makes the case for cost-containment strategies like a telemedicine benefit. As we mentioned above, the rise of HDHP’s puts financial pressure on employees. They bear the burden of choosing an in-network provider and selecting the lowest-cost option. Healthcare is notoriously lacking in price transparency, making that a tall order (see How Employees Can Lower Healthcare Costs and Why Office Workers Need Healthcare Guidance for more). When employees choose telemedicine, they’re usually choosing a free or lower-cost option. They save hours of their time and the cost of travel, as well. See Telemedicine & High Deductible Health Plans (HDHPs): The Full Story for more.

From an employer perspective, telemed is a more efficient option than traditional care (see Piecemealing a Healthcare Cost Containment Solution and Healthcare Guidance: Employers Best Hope to Tackle Rising Costs for more). Often, visiting a doctor’s office is a long and costly exercise. The average employee wastes 2-3 hours in wait and travel time when they go to see the doctor. What’s more, employees have a 3.2 percent higher probability of getting flu-like symptoms after a doctor’s visit. That’s all after an average 24 day wait time just to see a doctor. Telemed solves all these problems. HealthJoy members can typically log on, book a consultation, and talk to a medical professional within about 15 minutes, with no exposure to other sick patients, from the comfort of their home.

2-3 hours
Average travel and wait time for a doctor’s visit
Higher probability of flu-like symptoms after seeing a doctor
24 days
Average wait time to see a doctor
healthjoy resources

Three Ways We Save You Money with Care Redirection »

How Employees Can Lower Healthcare Costs »

Telemedicine & High Deductible Health Plans (HDHPs): The Full Story »

Piecemealing a Healthcare Cost Containment Solution »

Healthcare Guidance: Employers Best Hope to Tackle Rising Costs »

The big issue facing most telemedicine benefits

We know that a telemedicine benefit is an essential offering for employers of every size and industry. Given that a telemedicine benefit has the power to drive down cost and improve access to care, the question is no longer whether or not you need it. Instead, we have to ask: how do you actually get employees to use it?

While nearly 72% of employers offered a telemedicine benefit in 2019, utilization hovered around zero. Estimates of carrier-based telemedicine place it around 1-2%. Lack of education and employee benefits communication are the main drivers of this gap in understanding. Employees don’t know that telemedicine is part of their plan, don’t understand the costs associated with their telemedicine benefit, or don’t understand what a telemed benefit can treat.

of employers offered a telemedicine benefit in 2019

They might think that treatable conditions can only be tended to in-person, or that a medical professional seen virtually can’t prescribe. This keeps them from turning to the easiest option at the times they need care most, such as when their kid is sick late at night or when they’re too uncomfortable to sit in a waiting room for hours (read our post Why Employees Don’t Use Your EAP Program for more).

You can’t educate at the times when employees are sick or panicked. Education must happen ahead of time so employees are aware of all their options in the moments that matter.

healthjoy resources

Employee Benefits Communication »

Why Employees Don’t Use Your EAP Program »

Making a telemedicine benefit work for your company

So, you’re convinced that a telemedicine benefit is an essential plan offering. But offering this benefit and helping employees use (and love) it are different propositions. To overcome the duel challenges of low benefits awareness and engagement, you need a robust education and communication plan


Choose the right vendor

Choose the right vendor, because the wrong one can lead to low ROI and disengaged employees. To choose the right vendor, prioritize:

Ease of use

Is the solution easy to implement and integrate, and up and running within weeks? How are the reviews? If there’s an app, try it yourself.

Demonstrated high utilization

Demonstrated high utilization, which is not necessarily your carrier’s option – Instead of defaulting to your carrier’s telemedicine solution, turn to a specialty vendor. They typically have higher utilization rates.

High-touch support

The vendor’s role is to support your HR team. They should set you up for success during OE and beyond.

Quality of network and professionals

At the core of a telemedicine benefit is the quality of its professional providers. Make sure they’re credentialed by a third party.

Multi-point, integrated solution

Siloed solutions are easy to integrate into plan offerings, but hard for employees to find. As part of a benefits experience platform, telemedicine benefits have greater synergy and higher utilization.
Ebook: Telemedicine Buyer’s Guide
Telemedicine is having a moment: Between 2015 and 2018, the number of large employers offering telemedicine as part of their health plans grew by a whopping 47%…
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Invest in education before launch.

Open enrollment is also an opportune time to increase awareness and understanding of telemedicine. Including detailed information about telemedicine in all your OE communications, even if the benefit is baked into your carrier offering, can go a long way. Remember that this means meeting employees where they prefer to communicate—often outside of their email inbox .

Since most companies already offer telemedicine, it may be too late for this first step. If you’re rolling out a new benefit or just switching carriers, though, you can use that shift to highlight this important benefit with a targeted marketing strategy.

Consider ways to help telemedicine make a splash. Ask your telemedicine provider to present during your company meeting, host a Q&A session, or do a live demo. Physical and digital versions of common telemedicine benefit FAQs may also help, especially if they can be distributed to family and dependents. Anything that raises awareness and understanding of your telemedicine benefit during this phase is worth a shot. Train managers to use their telemedicine benefit so they can lead by example and help answer basic employee questions (read our post 4 Tips to Maximize Utilization When Launching New HR Initiative for more).

Telemedicine needs to work alongside a benefits experience platform to achieve its full cost-containing potential.

It’s pretty clear that when accessing telemedicine means dialing a number listed in a paper benefits booklet, employees simply won’t do it. It’s easy to add a siloed solution to your plan, but it just adds another layer of complexity to your employees’ benefits. The same is likely true of your carrier-based option. These typically have the lowest utilization in the industry, because it’s simply unclear to employees that they exist.

The answer is a benefits experience platform, which centralizes the employee experience into one simple application. HealthJoy’s benefits wallet draws attention to telemedicine and puts access front and center, so employees can connect with a provider with just a few taps of their screen (read our post How Our Benefits Wallet Engages Employees for more). We keep telemedicine top-of-mind with push notifications, and thanks to JOY, our virtual assistant, booking a virtual consult is totally seamless. She’ll even educate and remind people about the benefit throughout the year. Our utilization rates, which are nearly five times the industry average, prove out the success of putting a telemedicine benefit inside a benefits experience platform.

healthjoy resources

How To Select The Right Telemedicine Company »

Ebook: Telemedicine Buyer’s Guide »

4 Tips to Maximize Utilization When Launching New HR Initiative »

How Our Benefits Wallet Engages Employees »

Accelerate cost-containment and improve outcomes with a telemedicine benefit

Including a telemedicine benefit in your offering is one of the best ways to drive cost-containment, improve healthcare outcomes, and ultimately create a better employee experience. Even though most companies offer this benefit, utilization remains low, especially for carrier-based plans.

Employees don’t know enough about their telemedicine benefits to make them work. Even worse, the confusing norms of benefits communication make it difficult to break through.

To rise above the pack and make your company’s telemedicine benefit work, you’ll need to focus on working this crucial benefit into your year-round communication strategy. It’s essential that you select the right telemed vendor and that you integrate it all into a benefits experience platform. With these tools under your belt, you’ll finally achieve the telemedicine benefits success you’ve been chasing from Day 1.

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