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Telehealth Services: A Costly Convenience to Rising Insurance Costs [VIDEO]

Update Date: Mar 28, 2017 09:35 AM EDT

Convenience demands innovation. A RAND Corporation study asserts that telehealth services costs are higher than regular doctor visits and is of no help to mitigate rising insurance costs.

Telehealth services offer the convenience of consulting a doctor anywhere that has mobile network coverage or internet connection. A patient can save time and effort from going to the ER for quick questions on minor emergencies. They can also avoid the hassle of waiting in line when going to the regular doctor's appointments just for a minor cold.

The RAND study published in the journal Health Affairs found very interesting information regarding telehealth. It showed that patients who used telehealth for the treatment of respiratory conditions had to pay an average of $45 or more. There is also always the likelihood of being referred further that will bring up the costs dramatically, the NPR reported.

A strain is also caused by increased insurance costs because the employers believed that adding this coverage to their employees' health insurance coverage can reduce absenteeism. What the move was able to accomplish was new utilization - new visits or calls made to telehealth for consultations that wouldn't have occurred if the service was not available. A small percentage or just 12 percent of the sample population used telehealth services as an actual substitute for doctor's appointments, the Maine Public reported.

Since new utilization of telehealth provided a way for insurance holders to seek medical care, insurance providers believe that their member-clients' satisfaction would be at an all-time high. The downside though can lead to both employers and providers to reevaluate coverage because of rising insurance costs from claims.

Now the insurance companies are trying to rethink their strategies with telehealth. The service can now be limited to rural areas or to just specific ailments or conditions. They believe that an increased access to the convenience of having a doctor on call 24/7 has a lot more economic impact than they imagine.

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