Telemed Tackling COVID-19
OptiMed's Included Non-insurance Benefit Serves Vital Role
A non-insurance benefit packed into every OptiMed branded plan is now front and center in the battle against the Coronavirus.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention**, as well as the U.S. Government, are urging people to practice “social distancing” to help slow the spread of the virus. They are also advocating contacting your physician before visiting them if you think you are infected with the COVID-19, as well as the use of telemedicine to limit in-person doctor's office visits, also as a means to help slow down the spread of the virus.
In a nationally televised press conference Friday, March 13, President Donald Trump encouraged the use of telemedicine, a service available to all group members covered by OptiMed branded healthcare products.
Further, OptiMed’s vendor of this service, iSelectMD, has geared up to handle increased call volume and absorb a patient load that might otherwise visit a doctor’s office, clinic, or emergency room risking greater outbreak of the virus.
“Our call center staff and licensed doctors at iSelectMD are approaching the concerns about the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) seriously and want to help all of our patients understand the difference between the common Flu (which include influenza A and influenza B viruses) and COVID-19 and the best approach when applying telemedicine services for anyone that have contracted the COVID-19 virus,” said Michael P. Iaquinta, president of iSelectMD.
For Such A Time As This?
Telemedicine entered the healthcare arena about a decade ago, available initially at those living in rural areas far from medical facilities. Between 2011 and 2016, telemedicine consultations increased by 643 percent, according to research conducted by the Heritage Foundation.
COVID-19 is likely to trigger an exponential explosion. While in most states throughout the US there’s nothing restricting OptiMed group members from the included service, telemedicine has been wrapped in bureaucratic red tape at the federal level – until earlier this month. The $8.3 billion emergency coronoavirus aid package removed restrictions on the service for Medicare and Medicaid recipients.[i]
This is welcome news to John Goodman, whose efforts at influencing healthcare reform resulted in the adoption of health savings accounts several years ago. Addressing the Georgia Task Force on Health Care in November 2019[ii], Goodman said telemedicine presents “a huge opportunity to lower costs, raise quality and increase access to care.”
Lifting his cell phone into view of a panel that included physicians and politicians, Goodman declared:
“The potential is great. Why are we not using it? There is no reason for us to be paying doctors the way we did before there was an Internet and ignore all the potential of the technology sitting right in front of us.”
The surge in awareness of telemedicine should elevate the OptiMed program from the ranks of afterthought to prime asset in employers’ consideration of benefits. Using this included service should conserve medical costs.
“Most people think half the people (being treated) in emergency rooms don’t have to be there; they could be treated elsewhere,” said Goodman. “The estimate is that maybe 30 percent of all doctor office visits could be done over the phone or with an app.”
OptiMed group members register for telemedicine online, providing a profile and medical health disclosure. They can also register family members. This gives them access to a physician 24/7/365, with callback times averaging about 12 minutes according to Mr. Iaquinta.
Call or Conference
The iSelectMD boss indicated that most group members contact the telemedicine service via a toll-free phone call, but video conferencing is also available. His data indicates that about 71 percent of physician consultations result in issuance of a prescription.
The illnesses treated, coronavirus aside, consist of:
- Respiratory infections – sinusitis/bronchitis
- Urinary tract infections
- Pharyngitis/sore throat/strep throat
- Pink eye / conjunctivitis
- Seasonal allergies
- Cold and flu
- Indigestion / diarrhea
- Poison ivy
- Minor sprain and muscle strains
- Motion sickness
Physicians contracted with OptiMed’s telemedicine service have differentiated the symptoms of flu versus the coronavirus. While the two share numerous symptoms, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) has identified shortness of breath as reason to suspect the coronavirus, according to Iaquinta.
“Our call center staff will be asking additional questions when receiving consult requests about symptoms focusing on shortness of breath and also inquiring about recent travel,” he indicated.
As posted here two weeks ago (Coronavirus Readiness) and sent in an email alert March 17, groups in high-deductible plans – especially – should consider supplementing coverage with OptiMed Gap secondary insurance.
Highly customizable, Gap provides a trifecta:
- Guaranteed issue
- Voluntary contribution
- Telemedicine included*
*OptiMed’s telemedicine program is a noninsured benefit and is not part of the issued insurance policy. Telemedicine and other noninsured benefits such as COBRA administration, EAP, Wellness Nurse Line, Section 125 pop administration and patient advocacy, are included in OptiMed’s administration.
**Please make sure you, and your employees, are up to date with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s, and the U.S. Government recommendations, as this is a fluid situation that is changing day by day, and in some cases hour by hour.