OpenLoop Team|5/2/2024|4 min read

5 Ways Telehealth Insurance Benefits Can Aid Your Employees

Discover why telehealth is becoming a “must-have” benefit for employees

woman in tan suit talking to another woman in blue button up about employee benefits

Telemedicine, which was once an underutilized tool, is now considered an integral and evolving part of the United States healthcare system and a patient expectation.

In fact, according to SHRM, today's employees see telehealth as a “must-have” benefit, and employers are becoming increasingly intrigued by its cost and time saving benefits. We’ll dive into five ways adding telehealth insurance benefits to your employer plan could benefit your employees and keep your organization ahead of the curve. 

1. Telehealth can improve access to care

Transportation, language and finances are some of the most significant barriers to seeking healthcare services. So let’s look at the stats on those. 

  • In 2022, the CDC found that between 13 and 14 million U.S. adults lacked reliable transportation for daily living tasks, such as healthcare visits.

  • About 25 million Americans have limited English proficiency. Research shows that those with language barriers tend to experience more hospital admissions, increased medical charges, extended emergency department stays and larger work-ups. 

  • Approximately half of U.S. adults find it challenging to pay for healthcare costs, and one in four defer healthcare services due to the fees. 

Work-related barriers can also make accessing primary care services a challenge. For instance, employees may find it difficult to take time off work for medical appointments. In addition, it’s rare for primary care physicians to offer office hours that align with employee schedules. Even those who can utilize sick leave may not use primary care because they fear losing wages

Each of these barriers results in delayed or missed care, which increases morbidity and mortality risks. Fortunately, telehealth can help alleviate these barriers and, because it doesn’t require physical travel, can fit around people's schedules. An employer offering this benefit also expands their employee's access to qualified providers, a common issue in more rural areas. 

2. Affordable health benefits

Gallup found that 38% of Americans put off medical care due to costs in 2022. However, research suggests telehealth may be a more budget-friendly medical care option. For example, one study found that the mean telehealth visit was $112.80, while the mean in-person visit was $161.40. Let’s not forget that in-person visits may also incur public transportation fares, gas and/or parking fees. 

It’s important to understand that delayed care not only worsens an individual's health outcomes but also increases the overall cost of treatment, which falls on the employee and employer.

To give you some perspective, treating an employee with hypertension is much less expensive than treating one who’s had a stroke.

With telehealth insurance benefits, an individual has flexible access to preventative care to catch the early signs and symptoms of hypertension. It may not even end up interfering with their workday. However, an employee who suffers a stroke due to undiagnosed high blood pressure is going to cost an employer in many ways. 

As Benjamin Franklin once said, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Through custom health benefits, like weight loss programs and mental health support, telehealth can be used to prevent a host of potentially expensive healthcare issues. 

3. Higher employee utilization  

The last thing you want to do is offer an employee benefit with low utilization. Fortunately, telehealth solutions are benefits that employees want. They’re simple to use, can be personalized to fit their needs, and are compatible with most smartphones, computers, and tablets. 

Consider the following 2022 telehealth trends as shared by the Department of Health and Human Services : 

The Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) even noted that telehealth use for mental health and substance use is growing. For instance, in 2019, mental health made up 11% of telehealth visits and increased to 39% in 2021. An Epic Research study found that mental health, infectious disease, obstetrics, and transplant departments made up the greatest proportion of telehealth visits in Q3 of 2023. 

Overall, telehealth utilization has remained above pre-pandemic levels as people are growing accustomed to and comfortable with it. 

4. Increase employee satisfaction 

Even if employees have access to health insurance, they may ignore various ailments because they can’t afford to take time off. However, a competitive health benefit like telehealth, may remove this thought process because they can get assistance at any time that works for them. 

In addition, offering telehealth insurance benefits shows employees that their employers are invested in their overall health and well-being. Because of its flexibility and low cost, employees can access much more than just primary care benefits. They can use it for mental health services, wellness visits, fertility counseling, lab test results, follow-up appointments, and more. Plus, research shows that telehealth use is associated with decreased medical costs

This ultimately boosts employee trust and satisfaction, which is tied to higher retention rates. 

5. Decrease presenteeism and absenteeism 

According to Fortune, absent employees in the United States cost their employers approximately $150 billion annually, and presenteeism results in about $1.5 trillion per year in lost productivity. Both can be caused by depression, stress, illness and injuries, which telehealth can assist with. 

Many large companies, including Amazon, are beginning to use technology to improve their workers' health. This, in turn, aids in boosting productivity while reducing direct and indirect costs. 

In one study, researchers provided workers in underserved areas with a mobile personal health record app so they could access video-based telehealth services and telemonitoring. They discovered that this intervention improved the employees metabolic risk factors and lifestyle, and was a suitable solution for those with inadequate access to healthcare services.


Empowering better employee health through telehealth 

Telehealth has a lot of potential, as it enhances efficiency, improves access, offers convenience and is cost-effective. 

At OpenLoop, we’re here to assist with the construction of your telehealth benefits plans and would be happy to offer our industry guidance and best practices for success to get you started. By tapping into our nationwide provider network and white-label platform, you can build an a-la-carte, fully branded benefits package to meet employee needs. 

Want to learn more? Contact us today!

Our full suite of white-labeled virtual care services includes: