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Use Telehealth to Zap the Cost of Sick Days

Karen Minich-Pourshadi, for HealthLeaders Media, August 6, 2012

But telemedicine doesn't have to be limited to patients. Georgia Partnership for TeleHealth (GPT), a nonprofit provider working with more than 350 partners and 175 specialists across the state, has handled some 40,000 patient encounters as of 2011.

A study by Children's Healthcare of Atlanta, a 500-bed pediatric hospital that participates in the GPT, reviewed 609 telemedicine appointments conducted over a nine-month period and noted that approximately 86% of patients would have missed school and more than 80% of parents would have missed a full day of work to go to the city for an in-office visit. GPT CEO Paula Guy says a random sample of 40,009 telehealth visits that her organization tracked showed an average savings of patient travel time of 124 miles per encounter and nearly $762,027 in fuel alone.

Dan Ruggeri, a partner at Employee Benefits Design, LLC in Springfield, MO, says his organization was looking to incorporate telemedicine into its company's client offering, so it opted to first test it with its 25 employees. They received access to Consult A Doctor, a telemedicine service that provides patients with 24-hour access 7 days a week to a network of U.S. board-certified physicians via phone, secure email, video, and mobile applications. The benefit was encouraged by EBD's insurer and paid for as part of the employee benefit plan. In fact, all the major plans in Missouri provide an employer credit for the cost of this service, which comes out of the employers' monthly premium.

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