Why Telemedicine Isn’t the Explosive Benefit You Thought it would Be (and what can be done to change that)


With more of today’s workforce technology-driven than ever before, and healthcare costs continuing to rise, telehealth was expected to be widely adopted as a primary source of care this year. It’s on-demand, device-based operation serves as a convenient alternative to expensive emergency room/urgent care visits or being at the mercy of a doctor’s office schedule.

The data would suggest that telehealth is taking off as predicted, as employers are seeing the value. The National Business Group on Health reported that out of the 148 biggest U.S. employers, 96% are making telehealth services available to their employees.

However, only 20% of employers surveyed by the National Business Group on Health reported that 8% or more of their employees are utilizing telehealth. If this benefit is valuable enough to make its way into many offerings, why isn’t it being adopted at the rate expected?

While telemedicine use is certainly growing, there are a few reasons why it isn’t the explosive benefit it was expected to be.

People don’t know if their plan covers it

Out of the 66% of respondents to the Telehealth Index: 2019 Consumer Survey reported that they would use telehealth, 17% of them were not sure if their provider covers it. Rising healthcare costs have people avoiding any options that could incur additional expenses, so it’s important that employees are certain that their treatment is covered.

Promoting telehealth in office environments, through communication, and via promotions can help keep this benefit top of mind. Making it clear to all employees that telehealth is included as a covered service removes any uncertainty and makes employees more inclined to try it.

People are wary of unfamiliar options

Some people also hesitate to use telemedicine services because they are unsure about receiving medical care remotely from an unfamiliar provider. Emphasizing the credentials of the medical professionals in the telehealth network can help ease this uncertainty.

Telehealth plans can also be crafted using major healthcare providers within familiar networks. Essentially, this creates a telehealth option within an already-existing network of providers who employees are familiar with. Be careful and selective in choosing vendors and employees should feel confident in telehealth services.

People may not think they have a need for telemedicine

Each generation benefits from telehealth for a slightly different reason. For example, millennials may use it to seek on-demand mental health services, while parents might turn to it when a child gets sick on vacation, while older individuals might take advantage of convenient prescription renewal. Make telehealth relatable by sharing stories and examples of telehealth in use that relate to different possible scenarios.

Relating telehealth to situations specific to your employees changes the conversation. People will no longer think that telehealth has no place in their care plan, as they are sure to relate to at least one use case.