Telemedicine may no longer be a novelty, with nearly three in five large U.S. employers now providing cost-saving digital healthcare benefits to employees.
The Mercer National Survey of Employer-Sponsored Health Plans found that 59% of employers offer access to a telemedicine program, compared with 30% in 2015 and just 16% in 2014.
As Forbes reports, companies are seeing an opportunity to save money and give quicker access to medical care. A typical charge for a telemedicine visit is $40, compared to $125 for an office visit, representing a substantial savings for plan members who haven’t yet met their deductible.
Mercer data shows 75% of employers that offer telemedicine share the cost of the visit with their workers through a co-pay of generally around $25.
Additionally, more than one quarter (28%) of employers with 20,000 or more employees provide employees with access to digital healthcare tools such as self-service web tools that enable workers to research and compare healthcare plans, providers and prices.
“Being able to compare prices on higher-priced services is another way to save money and more large employers contracted with a specialty vendor provide their employees with a ‘transparency tool’ as an online resource to help them compare provider price and quality,” Mercer said.
Companies that offer the telehealth platform to insurers and employers include MDLive, American Well and Teladoc.
“We are seeing MDLIVE’s health plan and employer customers fully embrace virtual care for both medical and behavioral health, as a means to help bend the health and wellness cost curve,” MDLIVE chief executive officer Randy Parker told Forbes.
The growth of telemedicine is being fueled in part by enrollment in high-deductible consumer-directed health plans, or what employee benefits managers call, which in 2016 jumped to 29% of all covered workers, up from 25% in 2015.
“Employers have been taking steps to mitigate employees’ growing financial risk by making telemedicine and other less-expensive types of care available to help stretch their workers’ healthcare dollars,” Mercer noted.