Let's take a close look at Telemedicine/TeleHealth/Mobile Health! (See Below For a List of Providers and our Recommendation).

What is Telemedicine? ATA - American Telemedicine Association, provides "Formally defined, telemedicine is the use of medical information exchanged from one site to another via electronic communications to improve a patient’s clinical health status. Telemedicine includes a growing variety of applications and services using two-way video, email, smart phones, wireless tools and other forms of telecommunications technology.

Starting out over forty years ago with demonstrations of hospitals extending care to patients in remote areas, the use of telemedicine has spread rapidly and is now becoming integrated into the ongoing operations of hospitals, specialty departments, home health agencies, private physician offices as well as consumer’s homes and workplaces."  

 Why is there a demand for Telemedicine? According to a Forbes Article of 3/38/13 titled A Ray Of Hope For Affordable, Convenient, Quality Health Care  - "Steven Brill’s recent 24,000-word cover story in Time captured, in demoralizing detail, all that’s wrong with America’s bloated, dysfunctional health care system. How about a ray of hope?

It’s called telemedicine. Say you have symptoms of a sinus infection or the flu, or even need a trip to the emergency room. Rather than wait days for a diagnosis from your primary doc, a telemedicine service can get a bona fide physician on the phone..."   

The article goes on to say that we are at a "Point of no Return" with increased health insurance premiums and popularity of high deductible plans (HDHPs).  In addition to these points, I'd add that the shrinking number of personal care physicians combined with the newly insured population under PPACA will make getting timely appointments with a Doctor even more difficult than it is today. In addition, visits to Doctor's offices or Emergency Rooms are costly and expose the individual to other patient's illnesses.

How Does Telemedicine work? Employee Benefit News (EBN) by Tristan Lejeune  - September 26, 2012 explains "Roga, the CEO of STAT Doctors, discussed how phones, computers and other ways 'physicians [use] technology to treat patients remotely' have the potential not only to lower health care costs drastically, but to change way people see and seek medical treatment. Still, he pointed out, the root of this emerging field is deep in the past."

'What telehealth really is is going back to a house call, Roga said. When providers include telemedicine options in their health plans, he says, those dial-in visits are replacing the physical touching, and keeping to illnesses of low acuity, but the trade is in-home convenience, along with greater reach, improved efficiency and, really, improved coordination of care.

'This model works because you can be seen when you want as quickly as you want,' Roga said, pointing out what an asset this is for a society in love with instant gratification. He considers telehealth benefits as a great 'turn-key solution for the employer,' coming at no cost to them while providing the most accessible kind of care."

Is There Demand and is it Growing?  According to a Survey by the  Mercer Cosulting firm, 15% of major employers offer some form of telemedicine, while an additional 39% are considering the option. 

The Wall Street Journal adds ((Wilde Mathews, Wall Street Journal, 12/20) / ihealthbeat) "Insurers and businesses say telehealth technology could help alleviate the projected shortage of primary care physicians. In addition, remote physician consultations typically cost about $40 to $45, significantly less than visits to an emergency department or urgent care center, as well as most in-person doctor visits."

Tower Watson reports: "Large employer offering telemedicine services - Employers are beginning to insist on coverage of teleconference consults, as well as for the medical equipment that is sometimes needed to remotely  monitor certain types of patients — cardiac cases, for instance — who might otherwise be hospitalized for monitoring.

Some of the largest employers who have their own health centers are adding or will soon offer telemedicine services. A Towers Watson survey of onsite health centers this year said 28 percent of employers will offer telemedicine benefits by the end of next year, up from 8 percent now."

Does Telemedicine save money?  Wikipedia reports on a study from Britain, "The UK’s Department of Health’s Whole System Demonstrator (WSD) launched in May 2008. It is the largest randomised control trial of telehealth and telecare in the world, involving 6191 patients and 238 GP practices across three sites, Newham, Kent and Cornwall. Three thousand and thirty people with one of three conditions (Diabetes, Chronic Heart Failure and COPD) were included in the telehealth trial. The trials were evaluated by: City University London, University of Oxford, University of Manchester, Nuffield Trust, Imperial College London and London School of Economics.

  • 45% reduction in mortality rates
  • 20% reduction in emergency admissions
  • 15% reduction in A&E visits
  • 14% reduction in elective admissions
  • 14% reduction in bed days
  • 8% reduction in tariff costs"

Who pays for the Telemedicine Plans?  While to date Employees generally pay for the Plans, some Employers are paying for all or part of the cost. The plans are also available to individuals and their families. As data on the ROI for Fully Insured and Self-Funded Groups becomes available, more Employers will fund all or part of the cost to drive down health plan costs and reduce absenteeism. In addition, more Individuals and their Families will pay for the Plans to reduce out-of-pocket costs incurred due to increased co-pays and deductibles on their health plans.

How do the Telemedicine Plans differ? The Plans offered by the Providers and Brokers differ by the quality of services provided and by cost. Our research determined that buyers generally "Get What They Pay For". Budget Plans provide limited access and limited services! To gain the desired services and ROI, we suggest examining the Plan's features and benefits before purchasing. The following questions to ask providers should assist in the decision-making process: 

A) Does the Provider perform a health history for each participant to assist with diagnosing?

B) Is the Service Internet our Phone Based?

C) Is their immediate access to Physicians?

D) Do Physicians follow-up after the original call?

E) Do they offer a Prescription Medical Kit to assist in immediate treatment? 

F) Is there an additional per call charge in addition to the monthly fee? 

G) Is there a Deductible and/or Co-Pay?

Who offers these Plans? For a directory of listings, Telemedicine.com provides access to a Directory.  While this directory lists numerous organizations offering a variety of Telemedicine Plans - US based and International - our research has isolated six basic choices (it should be noted that several of these Organizations offer their Plans through Brokers/Consultants who rename and Brand the Plans to their agency):

*Who do we recommend? Based on our objective analysis - taking into account the features and benefits listed above - GetMedCallAssist (GMCA) provides the broadest range of services at the Best Price with the greatest potential ROI!

Get more information about GMAC:

BenefitPlace.biz has created sections on its website dedicated to Describing Telemedicine Plans and Listing Providers and Brokers of the Plans. We invite our readers to comment and add to the Information and Providers. For more information - Email max@benefitplace.biz or Call 216.577.5579.

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