Most Large Employers Will Offer Telemedicine, Study Shows

Mark Crane

August 24, 2015

Telemedicine services will be offered in health plans sponsored by 74% of large employers during the next year in states where it is legal, according to a survey released by the National Business Group on Health, which represents employers' perspectives on national health policy issues.

The new survey shows a dramatic projected increase in telemedicine services from the 48% of employers this year and 28% of employers in 2014.

The annual survey of 425 large employers also found that 81% of employers plan to offer nurse coaching for care management, and 73% will offer nurse coaching for lifestyle management in their health plans for 2016. Nearly three quarters of the respondents plan to provide workers with self-service decision-making tools to help them make better decisions as consumers.

The group's members, which include 71 Fortune 100 companies, provide health coverage for more than 50 million US workers, retirees, and their families.

The survey is somewhat in line with another study performed last year by Towers Watson, a global professional services company. That study found that 37% of employers with at least 1000 employees said they expect to offer their workers telemedicine consultations this year as a low-cost alternative to emergency room or physician office visits for nonemergency health issues. That number is expected to jump to 68% in 2016.

The use of telemedicine will continue to increase, driven by lower costs of telemedicine technology itself and by more insurance companies supporting it to cut costs, Allan Khoury, MD, PhD, a senior consultant at Towers Watson, said in a news release. However, even among employers that offer such programs, current use is low: Dr Khoury said vendors generally claim per member use of less than 10%.

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