The idea of telehealth has received a massive spike in attention over the past few years. This is primarily due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which made an in-person visit to the doctor’s office a riskier prospect than usual. Many patients have enjoyed easier access to professional medical and therapeutic advice due to telehealth technology, and the convenience factor is significant. But there’s another side to the value of telehealth: it’s cost-effective. So why exactly is telehealth so affordable, and will it be a better option for you and your family in 2022?
Can Telehealth Treat Familiar Ailments?
Telehealth, for both its convenience and affordability, continues to grow more and more popular. In 2020 alone, the demand for telehealth services grew by over 60%. This substantial growth strongly suggests a connection to the COVID-19 pandemic, of course, but this is not all that telehealth is beneficial for. Illnesses that many of us experience often are the best reason to try telehealth out. The saved time, lower expense and reduced risk are all appealing advantages.
Let’s take a simple example: you’re pretty sure you have the flu since you’re familiar with the symptoms. So instead of spending most of a day driving to and waiting for a doctor’s appointment, you schedule a telehealth appointment to discuss a treatment plan with a doctor. Not only have you saved the time that you would have spent commuting and waiting, but you’ve kept away from other illnesses present in the physical office, and you’ve kept your flu away from other patients!
There are plenty of illnesses that require in-person examinations to diagnose, of course. Still, the flu illustration is a clear example of a situation that becomes much easier with the option of telehealth services.
How Much Can I Save through Telehealth?
Your exact savings will depend on what type of care you need. One study found that telemedicine services cost an average of $335 per patient per year. This is an especially low number compared to the figure the study found for routine care, which was $585. In addition, on-site care costs an average of $1,166 per year. Therefore, opting for telehealth could save patients around $700 per year!
What about telehealth makes it more affordable than traditional doctor visits? The study mentioned above described three factors. The first is cost-sharing — the price of the telemedicine infrastructure is distributed to all patients. The second is effective treatment, meaning the consultations patients receive via technology are genuinely helpful. The third factor is that patients experience less loss of productivity. Instead of spending half your day on an in-person doctor visit, a telehealth appointment is considerably more focused and brief.
Another example of specific numbers that indicate significant savings can be found in a 2014 study, which found that the average price of a telehealth appointment is in the range of $40 to $50. This is, of course, much preferable to the $176 price that the study found for in-person visits. Attending a virtual appointment also eliminates the cost of commuting to a physical appointment, saving both gas money and calling off work time to visit the doctor for longer periods of time than just a call.
How Telehealth Provides Long-Term Benefits
We’ve already discussed some of the immediate benefits of telehealth, but what about the long-term consequences? Is telehealth still appealing when we’re thinking many years down the road? The short answer is yes because patients who wouldn’t have gone to the trouble of an in-person visit can use telehealth services to treat minor health issues. Immediately taking care of those minor issues means that they won’t turn into bigger, more expensive problems down the line.
The simple truth about the current job market is that switching from one job to another is more common than it used to be. Many Americans are moving from one location to another more often than they used to. This reality illustrates another advantage of telehealth: patients can stay in touch with their primary doctor despite geographical distance.
A Parting Reminder
If telehealth is right for you, it will be cost-effective and convenient both in the present and future. Instances such as broken bones or vaccinations must be addressed in person, of course, but many common ailments can be treated just as effectively through telehealth appointments. If these convenient and cost-effective features of telehealth sound right for you, don’t hesitate to reach out to your doctor!