By Danny Talley
The growing popularity of telemedicine services underscores its widespread appeal among employers and employees in every sector. So its increasing adoption by the transportation industry isn’t surprising.
It’s solving some real problems the trucking industry faces in making healthcare services more accessible to its drivers on the road. There are nearly 7 million of them traversing our highways, and they are already one of the unhealthiest populations in the U.S. Over half are obese, and they are prone to diabetes and hypertension.
Telemedicine services can help keep issues from compounding if routine ailments crop up when drivers are in transit. Without it, their options are limited if they come down with a cold or a sinus infection or other common conditions: an urgent care center that may or may not be in-network, a costly emergency room visit; or an extended stopover with stationary freight to just sleep it off and hope it doesn’t get worse.
Some 75 percent of healthcare visits can be remedied over the phone with a board-certified physician, and that’s precisely what telemedicine is designed to do. Neither truckers nor their employers want the kind of delay or expense that’s caused by waiting to see a doctor face-to-face. When a telephone consultation with a physician is an option, symptoms can be discussed in real time and a prescription can be phoned ahead to the next nearest town. A quick stop for that, the route is resumed and the driver is on his way.
In fact, one trucking company1 reported savings of over $1 million in one year through telemedicine, a function of care redirected from more expensive options and productivity savings. The company’s employees said that if a telemedicine solution hadn’t been available, 79 percent would have opted for an office or urgent care visit, done nothing (14 percent) or gone to a hospital ER (7 percent). The most common diagnoses via telemedicine were sinusitis, pharyngitis, bronchitis and urinary tract and upper respiratory infections; with the top five prescriptions being azithromycin, prednisone, amoxicillin, Zithromax and Medrol.
Telemedicine is increasingly embraced as a healthcare solution for those without convenient access to healthcare. Some 7 million patients are expected to use telemedicine services in 2018, up from less than 350,000 five years ago. It’s made a difference in what patients consider acceptable care options for minor health issues: Today, only 16 percent of patients opt for emergency room treatment for such problems, a practice that has historically contributed to high healthcare costs.
Benefits like these help motor carriers attract and retain good drivers – keeping them on the road and as healthy as possible. Add in the bottom line savings to employers’ health plan costs, and it’s easy to see why telemedicine services are such a winning solution for the industry.
HUB International’s team is ready to help you identify, access and deliver the benefits that will help you support your employees’ healthcare needs.