As organizations large and small look to better manage rising health care costs, many are turning to new tools and technologies to keep employees healthy. One organization at the vanguard of this trend is Team Select Home Care, a Phoenix-based home health services provider that operates seven offices in three states and specializes in skilled nursing, physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy and other areas.
“Health care costs are rising like crazy, and we reached a point where we’re spending nearly $1,000 per month per employee, regardless of whether it’s for the CEO or an entry-level employee,” says Fred Johnson, CFO and vice president of Strategic Operations.
A couple of years ago, the firm began searching for a way to trim insurance and health care costs for its 800 employees, including 250 that work full-time. “Over the last several years, we’ve witnessed an annual increase of between 6 and 10 percent,” Johnson notes. “Health care and benefit expenses are huge. So, any way to save money in these areas is critical to improving or maintaining our bottom line net income.”
After reading a Wall Street Journal article about a company and app called HealthiestYou, which allows users to connect to doctors through a smartphone and handle basic examinations and other tasks, Johnson decided to test the telemedicine system.
Physicians Can Make a Basic Diagnosis Over the Phone
Team Select Home Care pays $8 per month per employee for the service. Essentially, an employee with a medical issue—say a sprained ankle, bug bite or rash—can send photos, use video chat or have a phone conversation to describe the problem or show the board-certified doctor what’s going on. The physician can make a basic diagnosis over the phone and also can make recommendations—as well as prescribing medicine, if necessary.
The app connects anywhere where there’s a cellular connection, usually within 10 minutes, and HealthiestYou is available 24×7. Team Select avoids the $75 copay by using this system, and the insurance provider, UnitedHealthcare, covers any expense above that amount.
“About 70 percent of the time, the cash price HealthiestYou has negotiated is less than the cost of the copay, and it eliminates an insurance claim,” Johnson says. But the direct cost savings is only part of the story.
The app also helps reduce time away from work. In some cases, employees take a few minutes to address a problem through the telemedicine feature instead of taking off a few hours for a doctor’s appointment.
In addition, it’s possible to have a prescription sent to a preferred pharmacy electronically and then pick it up at lunch or after work, rather than taking time off during the workday. The service can send prescriptions to more than 12,000 pharmacies across the United States.
About 34 percent of Team Select Home Care employees have used the app and the HealthiestYou service since it went live at the beginning of 2016. A third of those who used it said that the service enabled them to avoid going to urgent care, and another third said it helped them avoid a visit to the emergency room.
“This approach represents the future of medicine,” Johnson concludes. “We’re able to provide a convenient and valuable service for our employees, as well as trim costs for our company and the health care system.”