by Katherine Restrepo
Director of Health Care Policy, John Locke Foundation
Tracing back to the late 1800s, telemedicine has had far reaching effects on patient care. The invention of the telephone allowed for physicians to begin resolving patient consults at a distance, saving them from making unnecessary house visits. Fast forward one hundred and twenty years, and this method of health care treatment isn’t all that different from how telemedicine market leaders like Teladoc operate. Its business model in large part connects patients with licensed physicians via phone to seek care for non-urgent medical needs.
I’ve mentioned in my last post that more large employers are incorporating telemedicine as an addition health benefit option for their employees. Since many patient consults can be taken care of over the phone, employees can save themselves the hassle of taking time off from work to travel to a physician’s office or an urgent care. Not only is this a win for them, but using telemedicine can benefit employers’ workforce productivity.
A study conducted in 2014 by the RAND Corporation examined telemedicine’s impact on this very issue by comparing health care usage patterns among employees at California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CALpers) who used Teladoc services compared to those who did not. When following the three most common diagnoses among employees (acute respiratory illness, urinary tract infections, and skin problems), one-third of Teladoc visits occurred over the weekends and on holidays, compared to just 8 percent of in-office appointments. Moreover, only 6 percent of Teladoc visits resulted in a follow-up visit, compared to 13 percent of in-office visits and 20 percent of emergency department visits. Assuming that Teladoc consults were effectively resolved over the phone, these results serve as another reason for businesses to adopt more telemedicine modalities.
To read the full study published in Health Affairs, click here.