When people are sick, the last thing they want to do is shop for a doctor. But that’s what the current healthcare system asks them to do.

High rates of ER visits, misdiagnoses and unnecessary procedures are often the result of uninformed employees seeking out care when they need it the most but not knowing where or when to go.

In our March webinar, we talked about emerging access options and employee education tactics entering the market. Our top takeaway? Health plans need to be tailored to the needs of the employee population in order to help lower costs and improve outcomes.

Here are the questions we heard asked the most during the webinar with expert answers from our hosts, Steve Kaltrider, Senior Product Director at Maestro Health, and Daniel Trencher, SVP Product and Strategy at Teladoc Health, Inc.

How are demographics impacting the trend of virtual care becoming a bigger strategy in health plan management?

There isn’t a plethora of public data on demographics using virtual care right now, though Teladoc has recent data showing that the 25-40 age demographic has the highest usage, and disproportionately so when compared to older age groups.

However, this is just a temporary skew in the data. As that population ages, the industry can expect to see virtual care being adopted and used more broadly across different age groups and populations.

It’s also worth considering access to technology as a factor. Younger age groups are usually more comfortable with technology like telemedicine whereas older generations are really more used to going to see and talk to a doctor in person.

As virtual care makes healthcare more accessible, it’s important to think about what the barriers to care are for a population and how virtual care can help lower costs, provide better outcomes and make it easier to get the right care at the right time.

What does edu-marketing really need to look like in the workplace? How do you get on employees’ radar?

Educational marketing is really about using marketing tactics to arm employees with relevant information when they need it. Getting on employees’ radar can be as easy as meeting employees where they’re at using relevant communication methods, like regular emails, posters in the break room and event-specific communications.

Working with a TPA or another partner gives employers access to more resources and tools to create relevant and impactful messaging, whether it be informing people about a virtual care option in their benefits package or helping them understand when to go to the ER versus an urgent care facility.

Really, it’s all about not burying benefits information in a handbook. It needs to be accessible, relevant and readable. A lot of that is easily achieved by just talking with your employees using their preferred communication methods.

What kind of incentives really work for employees to seek virtual care?

Most often, employers will waive employees’ copays for the visit. No out of pocket means that the employee has nothing to lose by calling.

Helping employees understand that virtual care is also a more cost and time-effective option is also a great incentive. Less time in the waiting room, lower (or no) co-pays and quicker access to care are all attractive benefits around using virtual care.

Are there additional costs to the member after their first visit using telemedicine or a virtual second opinion?

With telehealth, employees will pay for each individual physician visit, similar to seeing a provider in person.

However, with expert medical services, like a virtual second opinion, the costs can differ depending on the plan design and the contracts the employer has in place with the providers. Typically, these services are considered part of the PEPM (per employee per month) feature, so these visits usually aren’t charged to the employee.

Virtual care strategies and employee education are strongly positioned to help employers cut costs and improve health outcomes without having to sacrifice quality of care.

Missed the live webinar? Don’t sweat it. You can listen to Steve and Dan talk about virtual care, provider access and employee education in the recorded webinar.

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