Nursing homes are not the only places struggling to implement telehealth, largely due to payment parity and reimbursement issues. Employee health benefit plans, on the other hand, are not struggling to include telehealth options; as first highlighted in a Benefit News article, employers are very open to including telehealth services. In fact, the Kaiser Family Foundation Employee Health Benefit Survey found that over 70% of employers, in 2018, included telehealth benefits in employee plans, which is a significant increase from the 27% just three years prior. It is the employees, however, who are not as enthusiastic about the telehealth options. Employers just cannot seem to get their employees excited about using telehealth.
In a nutshell, per Benefit News, this is why employers like telehealth: “it can potentially cut health care costs and offers a convenient way for employees to get the care they need without long waits and high copays.” However, none of these benefits are realized if employees will not use it. According to the Mercer National Survey of Employee-Sponsored Health Plans, only about 8% of employees, in 2017, enrolled in the telehealth options included in their plans. The trouble is not so much that employees do not like telehealth. Once they use it, the likelihood they will continue to use it is high; the issue is that first step. There are a couple of things that seem to hold employees back from taking that initial step to use their telehealth option. One is that many do not even know they have the option. Secondly, “employees don’t remember they have the benefit at the moment they need it. Third[ly] is the notion of behavior change. Employees are hesitant at first, asking themselves is this quality care?”
In reality, all of these issues can be addressed through
more communication and education. The first one is not too hard to fix: Employers
could simply highlight that option when going over employee benefits. They
could also stress the quality of the doctors and convenience of the service.
Obviously, the discussion needs to be tailored to the demographic; some people
are more receptive to technology, while others are not so much. The biggest
thing, though, is getting employees to try telehealth. Employers could use incentives,
like giving out gift cards, when employees download the health app. However, it
all starts with a conversation.