Telemedicine Value Soars During Coronavirus Outbreak

April 2nd, 2020

Telemedicine value

By James Vertino, Chief Executive Officer

If telemedicine needed a boost to prove its value as a healthcare delivery system, it has received it and then some amid the coronavirus pandemic, which will forever change the way we live.

As I wrote in January, the growth of telemedicine is shaping the future of healthcare. The virtual visits it provides are here to stay and are an essential part of a complete benefit plan. Members can receive near-instant access to a doctor, who can provide the right level of care at the right time, 24/7.

As COVID-19 spreads across the nation and world, this alternative to in-person healthcare to evaluate and reassure patients is a critical tool to control the outbreak. Patients exhibiting milder symptoms of the virus may receive advice on how to care for themselves at home. Those who are diagnosed to be seriously ill can be directed to a healthcare facility for follow-up testing and treatment.

Patients who are not infected with coronavirus but in need of treatment for a new condition or chronic health issue may be afraid to visit urgent care or a hospital for fear of exposing themselves to COVID-19. Through telemedicine, they can visit with a doctor, receive a diagnosis, treatment recommendation, and, if needed, a prescription to be picked up later. They can stay on top of their condition.

They don’t have to take off work, go out in public or add to the pressures being seen at healthcare facilities across the country. Whether they are dealing with seasonal flu, pinkeye, anxiety, a skin condition or other issue, telemedicine is ready to help them.

While today’s crisis generally concerns access to care, there are other significant benefits of telemedicine for benefit plan sponsors and member. One huge benefit is containing the cost of care. Too often, people make unnecessary trips to an emergency room or urgent care facility seeking care. Access to a doctor through telemedicine is convenient and cost-effective.

In research performed before the coronavirus outbreak, my company, EBMS, found that plan members reported 96% satisfaction with our telemedicine solution. The average response time for a member to speak with a doctor was under 10 minutes. And plan sponsors and members collectively realized savings of over $100,000 in 2019.

There will be many powerful lessons learned from our battle against coronavirus. One takeaway is that telemedicine is a key component of our healthcare system and should be made available to more people as we work to improve access to care and contain skyrocketing healthcare costs.