Health care costs in the US are rising, and work comp expenses have reflected this rise. Fifteen years ago, medical claims represented half of total claims costs—the other half was indemnity. Today, medical outweighs indemnity by almost 20 percent. While there is little business owners can do about the rising expense of health care, they can manage medical costs. One method is implementing telehealth technologies.
Experts estimate that 80 percent of employers will offer telehealth services by 2018. Two common services are telemedicine and nurse triage. What are they, what can be treated virtually, and what are the benefits? Here is what business owners need to know.
What are telemedicine and nurse triage?
Telehealth services help people access convenient and timely health care via remote consultation. Using telemedicine, health professionals can diagnose and treat conditions like allergic reactions, lacerations, sprains, infections and more. Nurse triage allows an employee to speak to a nurse as soon as a medical concern arises. The nurse determines the urgency of the issue and advises the employee to schedule a doctor visit, implement home treatment, or go to the emergency room.
5 Benefits of Telemedicine and Nurse Triage
1. Skip the waiting room
For the right candidates, telemedicine sessions can replace visits to a physical office. Many providers, including Missouri Employers Mutual partner CoxHealth, have full-time occupational health physicians who exclusively practice telemedicine. Employees are more likely to attend follow-ups, and they spend less time traveling and waiting for appointments. Consumer Health Connections reported that with the presence of telehealth, 70 percent of physician visits were handled virtually and 90 percent of patients were “highly satisfied” with the care they received.
2. Get expert advice sooner
Nurse triage services allow employees to speak with a nurse as soon as a claim is filed, reducing costly and unnecessary trips to the ER and urgent care. This puts the medical treatment decision into the hands of an expert rather than the employer, and employees get to the right place, at the right time, for the right care.
3. Use existing technology
Users access nurse triage services using a standard telephone line, and telemedicine solutions are quickly becoming more convenient with technological advances. Today, employees bypass learning curves and the need for specialized equipment by accessing most services with a smartphone or webcam.
4. Keep employees working
After a virtual session with a doctor, employees often return to work within an hour. MEM data shows that fewer than one percent of employees using telemedicine appointments needed to attend a follow-up in a physical office, and 100 percent returned to work the same day with either full or restricted duties.
5. Save money
Nurse triage can reduce the costs of unwarranted urgent care visits, and telemedicine sessions usually cost less than traditional office visits. Both services can lower costs by reducing time away from work. Some work comp providers, including MEM, offer free nurse triage services and negotiated rates with telehealth companies as part of the insurance policy. The key to achieving these savings is to communicate the benefits of telehealth to employees and encourage them to use the services available.
The ability to take care of medical concerns quickly and conveniently is a win-win for business owners and employees. Employees get the care they need to get back to work safely, while employers are empowered to play a larger role in health care decisions and make a significant impact on work comp claims costs.