Telemedicine could yield $6B per year in savings

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 - Savings Ahead?

Telemedicine has the potential to deliver more than $6 billion in healthcare savings per year to U.S. companies, according to global analytics company Towers Watson.

Managing such savings would require all employees and their dependents to use the technology-enabled interactions in place of face-to-face visits to the doctor, urgent care center or emergency room for appropriate medical problems, according to the analysis.

In a survey 1,000 U.S. employers, 37 percent said that by 2015 they expect to offer their employees telemedicine consultations as a low-cost alternative to emergency room or physician office visits for nonemergency health issues, according to Towers. Another 34 percent are considering offering telemedicine for 2016 or 2017. Overall, the percentage of employers offering telemedicine is expected to rise from 22 percent to 37 percent, a 68 percent increase.

“While this analysis highlights a maximum potential savings, even a significantly lower level of use could generate hundreds of millions of dollars in savings. Achieving this savings requires a shift in patient and physician mindsets, health plan willingness to integrate and reimburse such services, and regulatory support in all states,” said Allan Khoury, MD, a senior consultant at Towers Watson, in a statement.