Healthcare is a massive expense in the United States, with spending on healthcare hitting $3.3 trillion in 2016. That equates to more than $10,300 per person. With the costs of both care and insurance rising, saving money on healthcare becomes imperative. But what if you could skip the doctor’s visit and still get the care you need? That’s where telehealth companies like American Well come in.
American Well’s technology allows doctors and patients to have live, on-demand visits over the web. “It’s often significantly cheaper to use the telemedicine platform and pay cash to see a physician, than go and see a physician in person,” said Dr. Sylvia Romm, Medical Director at American Well. She recently spoke to RewardExpert about the many ways in which telehealth can save individuals money.
Saving Money on Healthcare Bills
Romm stated that nearly 75 million Americans have American Well as a covered benefit. “This means if they need an urgent care visit, they can actually go online and see a physician and it might be 100% covered, or there might be a copay available. It’s often cheaper even if there is a copay. And if they don’t have the covered benefit, then going to see a physician for urgent care online is often less expensive than if you pay cash at an urgent care center or at a PTP’s (primary treating physician’s) office.”
In addition to the doctor visit costing less, it’s also about spending your time wisely and not having to miss work, get childcare or make other arrangements. “It takes significantly less time from home, or sometimes we even have patients calling in from their worksite,” stated Romm.
Recently Anthem BlueCross BlueShield released a study that showed the company saves about $200 per telemedicine visit for patients that would have otherwise gone to the emergency room. Romm describes telehealth as a win-win for everyone. “Not only is the plan saving a lot of money, but also the patient doesn’t have to go to the emergency room and wait. They can have the visit from the comfort and convenience of their home.”
Allowing Physicians Flexibility
While telehealth is beneficial to patients and their insurance companies, it’s also helpful for doctors who are looking to have a more varied schedule. “Telehealth really offers physicians flexibility in how they work,” noted Romm. “We see many who work from home after their kids have gone to bed, or we have other physicians who may need to be in a different city because one of their parents has fallen ill and they want to take care of them. Where they would otherwise have had to stop practicing because they’re no longer physically where their clinic is, now they can take that clinic with them and continue practicing seeing patients even if they’re in a different environment.”
Romm said for urgent care matters, about 85% of their patients have had their problems solved with a video visit. She attributes this to the online doctors doing a great job explaining the problems and the result of people becoming more adept at using their smartphones.
“Overcoming that barrier is one of the biggest reasons we’ve seen such huge increases in utilization. And we’ve also seen that once a patient uses telemedicine and they’ve become familiar with the ease of interacting with the healthcare system, they’re more likely to do it again.”
Telehealth is Here to Stay
American Well is currently partnering with a few organizations around the world to expand its global reach. Romm believes that telemedicine is a way to connect many different players in the healthcare ecosystem: from patients to healthcare plans to pharmaceutical companies and other organizations. “We bring them all together so they are really able to work with one another to create a better healthcare experience,” said Romm.
For more information on how to get started and to see how American Well is helping to democratize healthcare, visit americanwell.com today.