By BECKY GILLETTE
Anyone who had waited in a doctor’s office or emergency room for a long time either for themselves or a sick child can really appreciate the benefits of Teladoc, Inc. Not only do you avoid exposure to viruses and long wait times, but the cost is reasonable.
Teladoc, Inc. is a service an employer can provide to their employees and their dependents that uses telephone and videoconferencing technology to provide remote medical care via mobile devices, the internet, video and telephone.
Two major Mississippi companies who offer Teladoc to their employees include Huntington Ingalls Industries in Pascagoula and Mitchell Companies based in Meridian, which operates six different companies.
Here is one Mitchell Companies employee’s review of Teladoc: “I spoke to a doctor in 59 seconds! He asked me a few questions and wrote me a prescription for my local pharmacy. This is awesome. Thank Mitchell Distributing for this out-of-the-box thinking.”
Another employee also gave it a big thumbs up: “I just used it and it was quick and easy. No visit to the doctor’s office for something minor.”
Mitchell Companies Human Resources Director Landry Adkins said since the program was instituted in July, they estimate savings for employees and the employer of $31,482. Employees have spent less time away from work for routine illnesses. There has been a reduction in the number of visits to the emergency room and/or afterhours clinics, which are usually more expensive than normal office visits. There have been reduced claims, which has reduced costs to Mitchell Companies.
There is less cost to employees, whose only fee is the cost of the medicine prescribed.
“The first step is to register and provide information such as the current health condition, current prescriptions, etc.,” Adkins said. “Then when the employee needs to contact a provider, they can do so over the phone, via Facetime, or on a computer with a camera. There can be face-to-face video conversations or audio only. The call is answered by a nurse who takes medical history and then either transfers an employee to the appropriate provider or tells the employee that the provider will contact them shortly. Callbacks are normally within 15 minutes.”
There doesn’t have to be any previous relationship with the provider, which can be either a medical doctor, doctor of osteopathy or nurse practitioner. Adkins said providers must be licensed in the state in which the patients reside, but do not have to be located there. The average response time is 23 minutes—and it might take that long for someone just to drive to a clinic or doctor’s office.
So far about a third of employees or their covered family’s members have used the service. About 77 percent of visits resulted in a prescription.
HII has been using Teladoc for their salaried workforce since July 2014, and added the union workers in March 2015, said Edmond Hughes, vice president of human resources and administration.
“The major advantages are Teladoc physicians are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week for minor issues like colds, flu, and allergies, which are some of the more frequent items covered by Teledoc,” Hughes said. “The cost to our employees is $10 for each visit or conversation with a licensed physician. Compare that $10 to the $250 co-pay for going to the emergency room. And, unfortunately, in the past many people were going to the emergency room for minor issues. The wait is 15 to 17 minutes from time an employee makes an initial call to when the doctor calls you back. The convenience factor is also tremendous.”
Teladoc prevents people from having to take time off work to see a doctor during the day, and it can even be used when out of town.
“We were on vacation and my wife became ill,” Hughes said. “Being able to get quick medicine prevented us from having a ruined vacation. Teladoc is a great service to provide employees with wider services and availability for health care.”
While he didn’t have an estimate on cost savings, he said they know that emergency room use has been reduced.
Hughes said Teladoc is something many companies should take a look at, especially if they are seeing high usage of the emergency room.
In addition to Teladoc, Huntington Ingalls made an investment a couple years ago to open a Family Health Center for employees and dependents that is located only ten minutes from shipyard. Care provided there can include annual physicals and preventive screenings, as well other needs.
“Making health care extremely accessible to our employees is very important,” Hughes said. “We think we have gone the extra mile on this end to try to make assessible health care available to our employees and give them lots of options. If you use the Family Health Center for an illness, the all-inclusive cost is $15. That is for the office visit plus any lab work needed.”
There is no charge for preventive health visits. There is a pharmacy onsite, and a 30-day supply of a generic medicine is only $3 or a 90-day supply is $6.
“Our work force is the heart of the shipyard, and helping our employees stay healthy is very important to our continued success,” said Ingalls Shipbuilding President Brian Cuccias. “This facility shows our commitment to provide excellent healthcare and wellness options for our employees and their families.”
The health center will be open from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 8 a.m. to noon on Saturdays.