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Keeping Employees In-The-Know About Expanding Virtual Care Options

Virtual care began to play a key role in the health care delivery system prior to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. As 2020 catapulted us into a new world of Zoom meetings, working from home, and virtual schooling for our children, our health care necessities shifted to a virtual platform.

What virtual care services are available?

Virtual care services are commonly known for providing convenient care for patients at all hours of the day – generally, at a lower cost than in-person visits. Virtual health care reduces the need for in-person visits to a provider’s office or emergency room for non-life-threatening situations.

  • Telehealth

    Perhaps the most popular and widely available virtual care service is for non-emergency related health issues. Providers can easily diagnose and treat conditions like sinus infections or allergies over the phone. Dermatologists help patients with issues from acne to eczema through a video chat. These programs have now expanded to include Sleep Therapy, Substance Abuse support, Pain Management, and even Physical Therapy in some cases.

  • Behavioral Health

    The next logical step into the transition towards virtual care is assisting members with mental health needs. Treatment for depression and anxiety can happen without having to come into a provider’s office. Virtual care can remove barriers for employees who don’t have the time to see a provider during the workday. The flexibility of having a Cognitive Behavioral Therapy appointment at 7:00 pm from your home can relay less disruption to the household’s daily routine compared to seeing a counselor in person.

  • Employee Assistance Program

    EAPs are another common benefit that’s traditionally underutilized by employees. These programs are an employer’s first step to helping employees who may be struggling. Anxiety and depression are on the rise as an entire generation experiences social pressures and isolation as never seen before. Your EAP plan is an excellent resource for things beyond mental health care and well-worth spending some time exploring your plan’s website.

  • Home Health Care

    As new health care trends evolve, a whole new generation also welcomes a resurgence of the old-fashioned house call. Rather than a doctor with a black bag arriving at the door, the modern version typically involves a team of qualified medical practitioners who will treat patients in the comfort of their home and bill the insurance carrier directly. House call services are popping up in major metropolitan areas throughout the US and a great alternative for patients uncertain about receiving in-person care due to increased exposure to illnesses. It can also reduce hospital readmittance rates for those who need continued treatment after a hospital stay. Like telehealth, home health visits remove the barrier of treatment for those with limited mobility or transportation options.

How is virtual care covered?

Insurance companies and providers have worked together during quarantine to help existing patients continue receiving care with their primary doctor. Follow-up appointments for chronic conditions in some cases can be just as effective via video chat with an attending physician or specialist as an in-person visit would be. New patients benefit from this delivery of care, as well. For example, a neurologist can virtually conduct a preliminary patient assessment to determine if an in-person appointment would be necessary for further evaluation.

While insurance carriers have temporarily approved virtual visits during the pandemic, many patients and providers alike are asking for virtual care to remain permanent. The reduced hassle of driving to appointments and waiting in doctor’s offices prove to be major conveniences for many households. Virtual care appointments remove the burden of time taken away from the workplace (or school for dependents). Even more, it also reduces the exposure to illnesses from a clinic waiting room.

Will virtual care affect my medical plan options?

Insurance carriers are now introducing virtual care-based medical plans to the market. These plans are designed around the member starting with a physician virtually who will then refer the member to in-person care if needed. Medications are prescribed and managed virtually as well. These plans are often priced lower as the cost of care is reduced through a primary care screening. These plans could be a great solution for employers who have rural or field employees who would be more likely to receive care if they had easier access to providers.

The future of virtual health care

Virtual health care will continue to be an essential component of the health care delivery system in the future. Opportunities for receiving remote care increases as the list of conditions treated expands. As our workforce increasingly relies on their cell phone for most communication, there will be higher demand for virtual care opportunities. It’s important to educate employees on the types of virtual care options that are now available.

Learn more about the advantages of virtual care and check out this recent article: The Power of Telemedicine.

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