Got a funky rash? Need a prescription refilled? These are just a few things teledocs can address over the phone.
We live at a time when people can finally buy their own health insurance without going through an employer, but it’s a complicated decision to make. Most of us are so focused on deductibles and networks that we forget to consider if the plan has a telemedicine or telehealth service. This virtual treatment option for non-emergencies aims to save patients time and money.
A lot of large insurers offer telehealth. Generally, the “visits” are cheaper—something that many people support as health costs surge and the market remains uncertain.
American Well reports that 64 percent of respondents would use a telehealth service. Globally, the market is set to grow 14.3 percent annually through 2020. In fact, there will be about 7 million users worldwide by 2018, up from just 350,000 in 2013.
The In-Your-House Call
How does telemedicine work? Let’s say you’ve got a funky rash and want to know if it’s serious. Just message or call the doctor. Has that cold turned into a sinus infection? Need a prescription refilled? These are just a few things teledocs can address over the phone, in addition to prescribing medication. While patients still may have to visit in person at times, teledocs can help you decide if an in-person visit is really necessary and where you should go.
Getting Telemedicine Right
Developing technology hasn’t been the problem in getting telemedicine off the ground; data security and user experience are common obstacles. Oscar, an insurance provider and leader in the telemedicine arena, has offered free telemedicine with their plans since their inception. The feature is accessible by phone and in their app, and it’s available 24/7. To meet privacy regulations, the company also pioneered a secure messaging feature in the app for quick questions.
Telemedicine is also gaining traction because the reimbursement process is evolving.
Currently, Medicare covers telehealth only at qualifying facilities in rural areas. The Medicare Telehealth Parity Act of 2015, which is currently under evaluation, would expand coverage—and reimbursements—to more locations. More than 200 pieces of legislation pertaining to telemedicine were introduced in 42 states last year alone.
Demand is also up from other countries seeking access to U.S. doctors. The American Telemedicine Association reports that more than 200 American academic medical centers offer video-based consulting.
People When You Need Them…Technology When You Don’t
The future of telemedicine could include allowing doctors to order and review tests virtually, so patients only need to make one trip out for laboratory testing. Remote monitoring, which would let physicians view patient-produced data in real-time, is also another growing facet of telehealth.
Telemedicine isn’t brand new; it has evolved in recent years. While office visits for certain cases remain necessary, the cost-savings and ease of use are already making it a popular option.
Time is running out to choose your 2017 plan.
Make sure you get coverage by December 15, 2016 so your coverage can begin on January 1, 2017. Contact Oscar