Digital doctor visits or telemedicine is a growing market for employers, says the 2018 Employer Health Benefits Survey (EHBS). Employers are investing more heavily in telemedicine, with 39% of firms (50 or more employees) providing financial incentives for using telemedicine in 2018.  

This comes as employer-run health programs are at an all-time high.  Companies like GM, Walmart, Boeing, and even Walt Disney are negotiating health programs directly with hospital systems. It’s no subtle movement- employers are out to find healthcare solutions.

Telemedicine is patient care received remotely from a medical professional through means such as video conferencing or remote monitoring. In large firms, the 2018 EHBS saw employer-offered telemedicine increase from 63% in 2017 to 74% in 2018.

The big attraction: better care and lower costs. Benefits of these digital care plans include lower costs of care in comparison to an office visit and more flexibility for the employee. By allowing or even promoting employees to visit virtual clinics, employers are spending less on healthcare and reducing the time-off typically required for employees to schedule doctor visits.

Health systems in North Carolina have quickly adopted telemedicine as a cost-saving solution to offer more intensive care to both local and remote patients. Novant Health’s Video Visits offer 24/7 primary care for minor illnesses and injuries. UNC Health Care also unveiled their UNC 24/7 Urgent Care program in 2018, with round-the-clock access to a medical professional. Beyond primary care, Duke Health has implemented telemedicine in physical therapy and ALS treatments, while Wake Forest Baptist Health’s Telestroke network offers 24-hour access to stroke experts to patients in rural health facilities.

The growth of accessible programs and the increase in employer interest could spell wider adoption for states like North Carolina in 2019.