Consumerism Drives Employer & Retail Clinics' Telemedicine Adoption in 2016

Foley & Lardner LLP

In response to consumer demands for more personalized health care at a lower cost, employer onsite health clinics and retail clinics will continue to be on the rise in 2016, and telemedicine will be crucial to those clinics offering expanded services at a lesser cost.

With employers projecting a 6% rise in health care benefits costs for 2016 and many bracing for the possibility of increased costs from a looming excise tax under the Affordable Care Act, onsite health clinics are part of an extended strategy to cut down on employees’ expensive visits to the ER and other costly providers. Many of these clinics already employ telemedicine, but that number is expected to compound in 2016. A full 74% of respondents to a Business Group on Health survey plan to offer telehealth services to employees — up from 48% the previous year.

On the retail side, savvy health care businesses have learned that many consumers are embracing telemedicine as a means for reducing their health care costs, even when it isn’t covered by their insurance. In response to that consumer demand, pharmacy giant CVS is expanding its Health Digital Properties and walk-in Minute Clinic, and has received high marks from patients on its current programs.

Across the board, as telemedicine offerings continue to become more user-friendly, consumers are more willing to use them. According to Accenture, 57% of U.S. consumers track their health information online — including medical history, physical activity, and symptoms. And according to American Well, 64% of Americans are willing to “visit” a doctor via video, and 70% of consumers would rather obtain a common primary-care prescription via video, than from an in-office visit.

The rise of telemedicine outside the traditional provider system also comes with its own legal issues, but efforts are already underway to ensure that services are offered smoothly. Employer and retail clinics’ telemedicine expansion is among five telemedicine trends driving health care transformation in 2016 and beyond, including expected reimbursement growth, an uptick in international arrangements and burgeoning state legislation. Our final post will cover the role of Medicare Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs) in the rise of telemedicine.

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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