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Medical consults a call or videoconference away

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Giving employees powerful financial incentives — substantial employer contributions to employees' health savings accounts — to take better care of themselves is just one way LafargeHolcim U.S. is trying to control health costs.

Last year, the company launched a telemedicine program intended to give employees an alternative to expensive emergency room or urgent care visits for medical problems that happen when their doctors' offices are closed, such as nights and weekends.

Instead, the Teladoc Inc. program — offered by LafargeHolcim's health plan provider, Aetna Inc. — allows employees to call or have videoconferences with board-certified physicians about medical problems.

After filling out a medical profile when they sign up for the program, employees can dial a toll-free number to consult Teladoc physicians about conditions such as respiratory, ear and urinary tract infections; allergies; sore throats, colds and flu; and pink eye.

Teladoc doctors, who have access to the employees' medical profiles, can call in a prescription to a pharmacy.

The employee's cost for the consultation and assistance is $40, a fraction of the cost of a hospital emergency room visit, with the added bonus of also saving time traveling to be examined.

The cost to LafargeHolcim of the offering was not disclosed.

In the first four months of this year, LafargeHolcim health plan participants tapped Teladoc for 141 consultations, up from 81 for all of 2015. Philia Swam, LafargeHolcim's U.S. manager of health, wellness and group benefits in Chicago, would like to see usage grow.

“Our plan is to continue to promote the program and encourage utilization in lieu of urgent care, ER visits or if the member can't get a physician's appointment for treatment of conditions such as ear infections, sinus issues, skin rashes — conditions that may need urgent care, but not ER visits,” Ms. Swam said.