Employees in the Allegheny County Schools Health Insurance Consortium and their family members will soon be able to get a doctor’s diagnosis for ailments without ever going to an office. The consortium, which represents 53 school organizations, 18,000 employees and their 25,000 family members has entered into an agreement with Teladoc, ACSHIC board chairperson Jan Klein says, which began Nov. 1.
“The consortium decided to partner with Teladoc for video doctor appointments because, as technology has become more accessible to everyone, we wanted to give people the option of being able to use this technology to avoid having to go to doctors’ office for treatments for illness that occur on a pretty frequent basis,” Klein says.
Klein speaks from experience. Last year, she had five different doctor appointments for what was really a cold and the resulting sinus infection.
Each time, Klein had to leave work or home, sit in a waiting room with people suffering various illnesses and “see a doctor and find out what I already knew — I had the same cold which didn’t go away,” Klein says.
Teladoc, she says, would have given her an alternative that would have kept her at work and to receive care remotely.
Bill Hepfinger, Teladoc’s area vice president for health plan sales, says 3,500 physicians are on staff nationwide. Teladoc has 20 million people signed. And Teladoc is on pace to top 1 million service calls this year, he says.
Physicians are available 24/7, 365 days a year.
“They can diagnose, treat and prescribe when necessary for minor illnesses,” Hepfinger says. “So, the members can access our physicians via phone, mobile app or our web site.” Those with serious illnesses are referred to a doctor.
And as a mother and grandmother, Klein knows that it can “become a family adventure” when a child takes ill and the parents must pack up the car and travel to the doctor.
“This will help young parents because they won’t have to disrupt the rest of the family in order to get a sick child seen for what sometimes is a very common illness,” Klein says.
All physicians are licensed and board certified. They are working doctors who carve time out of their days so they can be on call for Teladoc, Hepfinger says.
“If you don’t feel well, you may go to your doctor or your local urgent care center,” he says. “If you have Teladoc, your alternative is to jump on your smart phone, use your mobile app or call us directly and ask for a physician.”
The average wait is eight to 10 minutes.
Teladoc has been around since 2002, but virtual care has grown significantly over the last three years.
“A lot of it has to do with the fact that there’s not as much primary care available as there used to be,” Hepfinger says. “Many primary care physicians are aging out and newer physicians are getting into specialties. Also, people want convenient access to a physician and this gives them that.”
Klein and Hepfinger stress that employees are not charged a dime until they need to pay for a prescription or are referred to see a doctor.
“We feel it will be such a good program, we have made it free to our participants,” Klein says. “That needs to be stated. There’s no charge for using it.”
Before ACSHIC employees can call Teladoc, they have to register with the program. That process takes about 15 minutes and includes questions you’d answer with pen and paper in a doctor’s office.
Teladoc has a 92 percent resolution rate, Hepfinger says.
Hepfinger, who flies often for work, recently didn’t feel well boarding a plane, felt worse after the landing and called Teladoc from his car. A doctor called back in four minutes. “By the time I got home, I had picked up the prescription,” he says.