Ruggeri notes that with many employees nationwide on high deductible health plans, copays for unnecessary trips to the doctor's office can add up. There's a double whammy when employers must pay for claims for the unnecessary visits. What's more, some employees may forgo necessary treatment for themselves or a family member in order to save money, which later can lead to a worse illness or outcome.
But getting employees to stop using their physicians' offices as their first stop for illness isn't easy. To encourage employees to try telemedicine, Ruggieri says, the employer needs to pay the fee for the program and offer it as a free benefit to employees.
"If it doesn't cost the employee anything, then that's a heavy incentive to use this first, before going to the doctor's office and using a high-deductible plan. And if we can reduce our [employee] claims costs, it saves us, the employer, money," he says.