’Tis the Season — for Telehealth

The holidays just might be one of the best times of the year to try out telehealth. Thanks to our partner, MDLIVE, we were able to take a look at how our savvy health care shoppers have been using telehealth over the past year. All signs point to the holidays, and the winter more generally, being prime times to take advantage of telehealth.

Why Should You Think Telehealth First This Winter? 

1. The demand will be high
As you saw in our Thanksgiving blog post, searches for hospitals and urgent care centers skyrocket during Thanksgiving – a trend that also holds for Christmas. That means many more people than usual are heading to hospitals or urgent care centers when they’re feeling sick during the holidays. This could be because they are traveling, their doctor is out of town, or they seek care at an off time of day. But, in all of these cases, there are times when telehealth can easily replace a physical visit.

2. Convenience
Imagine not having to get out of your sweatpants or away from your tea when feeling sick this winter. On-demand care puts you in contact with a doctor right where you are. You can even get your prescription directly from the telehealth visit, if needed, and start getting better faster. As you can see in the graph below:

  • Nasal and sinus conditions, throat conditions and respiratory conditions — all conditions that generally increase during the winter months and that could require a prescription to treat — are among the top telehealth calls, making them prime cases for telehealth use over physical places of service.
  • As you’ll also see in the graph below, flu and common cold sufferers frequently use telehealth to ensure they are doing all they can to get better, while not contaminating others in transit to a doctor’s office.

3. Beyond convenience, it’s also about cost.
In case you went a little shopping crazy this holiday season, telehealth has your back, especially when a new deductible rolls around in January.

  • Ladies, you’re winning at telehealth usage. We know mothers are the primary health care consumers for a family, scheduling appointments and making sure family members get care, but it seems they are also the ones using telehealth to get convenience and lower cost all in one place.
  • Telehealth often costs an individual $50 or less out of pocket. That could be hundreds less than a trip to the hospital or urgent care.
  • With health care costs soaring nationally, telehealth can save plans and providers, too:
    • Oregon: $38 saved per person/per month
    • Idaho: $25 saved per person/per month
    • Washington: $49 saved per person/per month
    • Utah: $33 saved per person/per month

4. You probably have access to it, so why not use it?
Without a doubt, the prevalence of telehealth offerings is on the rise with 75% of employers set to offer the service to their employees in 2017. However, engagement and education are two of the biggest hurdles for people using the service. So, why not check if you have telehealth available to you through your health plan or employer and give it a try?

In order to help people make smarter health care choices, it’s key for all stakeholders involved to understand who is already using telehealth and what for. By knowing these things, we can identify who will be most likely to use and to benefit from the convenience of telehealth going forward.

What Do You Find Interesting in the Data Below?

To explore the graph, click on any of the different bubbles to show you more information about how telehealth is used by different genders and age bands. You’ll also be able to see which conditions generated more prescriptions and what time of day telehealth calls were made. Have fun!