We’ve already started to see the results of telehealth on the ways we can deliver healthcare. Patients who need long-term monitoring care can now avoid costly in-home visits through simple systems that can check on them anytime. Parents can avoid bringing their kids to the GP for advice or simple checkups through their phones. Recently, congress embraced the power of telehealth to make a big impact in the fight against the opioid crisis, with new funding for systems to get victims the help they need regardless of where they are. This is just the beginning, and the beneficial changes to care provision will continue to expand as long as we keep reimagining them. But what about payment?
Here’s a simple example: insurers like people who use their routine benefits. It seems counterintuitive, but it makes sense. Routine checkups catch and prevent serious, long-term illnesses and are therefore cheaper overall. In the long run, insurers want patients who are healthy and who keep themselves healthy. Integrated healthcare and telehealth make it easier to know when patients are using their benefits, which means insurers can offer incentives to patients to do just that. What’s more, with the increased access telehealth systems can bring, more patients will find themselves able to get regular checkups.
This doesn’t just apply to self-insured people. Those who get their insurance through work can benefit too, as can the employers who negotiate the coverage. Employers have the ability to try to influence those who work for them for the better. They can encourage their employees to take advantage of routine benefits. This is simpler when those benefits are easily accessible for the employees. And because insurers like healthy patients, employers who help keep their employees happy and healthy should be able to expect lower premiums as a result.
There’s a bigger picture here. Too often telehealth is seen as limited because, it is best suited for routine, diagnostic and preventative care. Beyond telemonitoring has less of a role to play in treatment for more serious issues. People think of this as a drawback on telehealth, but any medical professional will tell you that so many of the serious issues they treat can either be avoided with good advice, or limited with early intervention. Keeping people healthy in the first place is the best approach, but used to be near impossible to achieve. Telehealth changes that and will change the whole healthcare landscape not just the parts it touches directly. Telehealth is expanding and we need to expand how we think about it too.
So if you don’t do already, take advantage of your routine benefits and keep yourself healthy. Even if it doesn’t mean a lower premium right now, staying healthy is more cost effective than treat any illness and hopefully in the near future your insurance will recognise and compensate your effort.