24/7 Access to Talk to a Doctor and Other Reasons Why Telemedicine is On the Rise

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With consumers looking for more flexibility than customary in-office appointments typically allow today, telemedicine continues to expand at a rapid rate. Cypress Benefit Administrators, a third party administrator (TPA) in the United States, explains why more and more consumers are using telemedicine and describes situations where it’s most beneficial to have direct access to talk to a doctor.

I called in, talked to the doctor, drove to the pharmacy, got my prescription filled and was back home within 30 minutes.

Moving beyond the traditional office visit, telemedicine services are gaining popularity and being recognized for their convenience, cost-effectiveness and 24/7 accessibility. As the telemedicine market expands globally, studies estimate growth to climb from $11.6 billion in 2011 to over $27 billion by 2016 worldwide. The United States is seeing a share of the increase, with over-the-phone medical services that allow consumers to talk directly to a doctor as a prime example.

Tom Doney, president and co-founder of Cypress Benefit Administrators, says his company has seen steady growth in the usage of Consult A Doctor™ since the service was first implemented. Flexibility and convenience, he believes, are key reasons. Instead of waiting for an open appointment, the telemedicine program allows users to call in and discuss their symptoms with a certified physician and receive care instructions for non-emergency situations. Doctors can also prescribe medication if necessary.

Along with hearing about favorable experiences from clients, Doney also has first-hand knowledge of Consult A Doctor, having used the service himself. In one instance, he was between doctors and felt the symptoms of his annual sinus infection coming on. Doney explains, “Instead of dealing with the lines at a walk-in clinic and missing work, I called Consult A Doctor and got through to a physician right away. He asked about my symptoms, looked up my medical history and called in my usual meds for sinus relief.” Being away from home a lot, Doney says, “For someone like me who travels often, telemedicine is a great way to address primary care issues.”

Angie S. (full name withheld due to HIPAA regulations), whose Appleton, Wisconsin-based employer also utilizes Consult A Doctor, agrees that convenience is a major factor. She explains, “I was told that a physician would call within 30 minutes, but it wasn’t even five minutes, and I heard back.” Diagnosed with bronchitis, Angie adds, “I called in, talked to the doctor, drove to the pharmacy, got my prescription filled and was back home within 30 minutes.” She says without the phone service, the process could have taken up to four hours since her doctor’s office is 90 minutes round trip.

Doney says an experience like Angie’s is typical of feedback Cypress Benefit Administrators has received since the TPA began offering the telemedicine program to its employer groups. He explains, “In most cases, there is no cost to our members when they call Consult A Doctor. Not only does this save them the time of driving to an appointment, sitting in the waiting room and seeing the doctor, but it also means they don’t have to pay $125-$150 for an office visit.”

With telemedicine on the rise, Doney cites examples of how these over-the-phone services can be most useful:

  •     Traveling for work - coming down with an illness while on the road
  •     Distance to a provider/facility – needing same-day medical guidance when the closest facility is a significant distance away
  •     Scheduling conflicts – inability to leave home or miss work based on limited appointment slots available
  •     Access after hours – requiring care beyond typical office hours
  •     Recurrent conditions – access to a physician who can answer questions about recurring symptoms or new ones

Telemedicine is expected to create savings opportunities as it grows. For example, the FCC National Broadband Plan estimates that it could save the government over $700 billion worth of health-related costs in the next 15-25 years.

Cypress Benefit Administrators first opened its doors in 2000 and has become one of the country’s leading third party administrators (TPAs) over the past decade. The company currently employs 85 people and services more than 200 clients, with coverage of employees in 49 states and two Canadian Provinces. Cypress has offices in Portland, Ore., Omaha, Neb. and Pueblo, Col., in addition to its headquarters in Appleton, Wis. For more information, visit http://www.cypressbenefit.com.

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Lori Van Handel
Willems Marketing
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