Though telemedicine has been around for about 15 years, it is just now starting to gain some traction. With rising medical costs and increased insurance premiums, this might be the next great wave of health care — medical advice and care given by an actual doctor through devices nearly everyone can access — a phone or computer.
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Teladoc is a company that provides these services. Back in 2002, it devised a system that connected doctors with patients in real time, over the phone and via Internet. By bringing together doctors with free time from canceled appointments or days off and patients needing help even after regular clinic hours, Teladoc provided a way to solve a significant need in the healthcare industry by providing care in real time.
Plus, (and this is a big plus), telemedicine is a lot cheaper than a regular doctor’s visit.
Cheaper care, more convenience
Right now, telemedicine, (also called ‘telehealth) is typically available as a supplement to company-sponsored healthcare plans. But, there are options for those who do not have access to telemedicine through their company-sponsored plan.
Services to the general consumer such as Call a Doctor Plus or Doc on Call 24-7 cost around $20 a month, while MD Live offers a per-session visit for a cost of $49.
Teladoc added nearly 1,000 clients in the first quarter of this year, including Southwest Airlines, Dell and Lockheed Martin. It’s part of 26 health plans, including Aetna, Oscar and Blue Shield of California. Several hospitals, such as Memorial Hermann in Houston, have added the service. But, even though telemedicine is huge when it comes to decreasing costs for businesses, costing an average of $.48 per member per month, the biggest hurdle for more companies adopting telemedicine is an overworked HR department, according to more Teladoc CEO Jason Gorevic.
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Dr. Allan Khoury, senior consultant for Willis Towers Watson, a financial advisory company, told the Dallas Morning News, ‘There really is no reason to not offer it.’
And people are catching on. According to research by PricewaterhouseCoopers, over 80% of people are open to telemedicine. Vaughn Kauffman, a global practice leader at PwC said, ‘The reality is consumers like this technology and they’ve been waiting for this to happen.’
This year, Mr. Gorevic says Teladoc expects to handle 1 million patient visits. In addition, according to Willis Towers Watson, more than 80% of large companies are expected to offer telemedicine by 2018.
Though telemedicine is not a substitute for emergency care, it can be a great way to increase convenience and significantly reduce healthcare costs.
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