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Employers find savings, service in telemedicine

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MINNEAPOLIS — Though still a relatively new technology, telemedicine is becoming a more viable option for companies looking to temper health care spending, speakers said Tuesday at World At Work’s Total Rewards 2015 Conference and Exhibition in Minneapolis.

Paul Henry, vice president of total rewards for The Brink’s Co., said the Richmond, Virginia-based security firm recently began using a video-based telemedicine service after realizing that its health care costs were rising at a faster rate than their health insurer’s average for its book of business.

Mr. Henry said the service, from San Francisco-based telemedicine provider Doctor on Demand Inc., has helped the company cut costs by helping employees avoid unnecessary doctor and emergency room visits.

“We are driving significant cost savings just from people not going” to the emergency room, Mr. Henry said.

Dr. Lena Cheng, vice president of medical affairs at Doctor on Demand, said one of telemedicine’s primary benefits was the ability to rapidly determine the appropriate medical setting for a patient.

“In traditional health care, 70% of office visits and 40% of emergency rooms visits are unnecessary,” she said.

Mr. Henry said that in addition to helping improve ER utilization, the telemedicine service has other appealing features, including its ease of implementation, and the ease with which the company can monitor the care given to its employees.

“From an employer perspective, it really is no risk,” he said, citing Doctor on Demand’s “pay-as-you-go” business model. “You only pay for what you use.”

Dr. Cheng said that while patients can use a Web browser to access its service, telemedicine has become more practical in the past few years as mobile devices and apps have become ubiquitous.

“The idea is to provide a consumer-grade customer experience with enterprise functionality,” she said.