July 8, 2019

Better Together: Technology Advances in Health Care

As technology evolves, the way employees access health care has undergone massive shifts to improve accuracy and methods of care. Errors are costly in any profession, but none as high as in medicine—a study by Johns Hopkins cited medical mistakes as the third leading cause of death, after heart disease and cancer.

Advancements in Electronic Health Record (EHR) technology is at the forefront of finding new vehicles to offset medical oversight. EHR is a digital version of a medical chart, which chronicles a patient’s health history across multiple clinics or care providers to track changes in vital signs and labs. This shared data also flags complications such as allergic reactions or past diagnosis, which if not disclosed to a treating physician, can lead to serious complications.

In specialty care, such as a hospital environment, multiple physicians with specific areas of expertise have to collaborate and keep detailed notes, assign prescription or surgical orders with varying methods of treatment that affect the overall patient outcome. Customized EHR systems create checks and balances between departments and care providers, and some hospitals are instituting policies to move away from verbal orders, requiring physicians to electronically log dosage and treatment orders before staff administer them. This is to alleviate miscommunications, track methods of care and properly bill insurance carriers for all services rendered.

Administrator portals such as Western Growers Assurance Trust’s (WGAT) HealthView, connects employees to resources to manage both care and cost with easy access to explanation of benefits (EOB), provider lookups, claims status and copies of ID cards. Encouraging preventative care and disease management are vital to the employee’s wellbeing as well as curbs absenteeism, hospitalization, or premature death. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that illness and decreased levels of productivity reduces economic output by $260 billion per year—affecting every employer.

The introduction of telemedicine—virtual medical consultation through a smartphone or computer—provides easy access for after-hours non-emergency care and fills a need specific to the agricultural community where a clinic or facility can be a far distance away. With telemedicine, a virtual appointment is scheduled through an online portal for a video chat with a doctor to diagnose and issue treatment for common maladies. WGAT’s partnership with Doctor on Demand offers employee access to care with U.S. based, board-certified physicians through live, secure video chat to diagnose top medical issues such as flu, rash, infections, upset stomach, allergies, and sports injuries.

As well as issuing prescription refills, Doctor on Demand physicians are able to initiate requests for lab orders through in-network laboratories and review the results. The Doctor on Demand app is available 24/7 and requests can be made for appointments with specific physicians. WGAT participants also have access to Doctor on Demand services for mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Appointments can be made with a staff psychologist and psychiatrist. Along with easy access to care, many telemedicine copays are lower than the cost of an office visit.

A clear example of the positive contribution of telemedicine is in curbing the spread of communicable illnesses such as the flu, measles and whooping cough. Through telemedicine, a patient can be seen and diagnosed without risk of exposing that patient to further contact with the general public. Meanwhile, for those with challenged immune systems such as young children, elderly adults, and cancer patients, diagnosing patients remotely for simple medical issues greatly increases the chances for recovery without exposure to medical waiting rooms and unknown communicable diseases. Telemedicine is a powerful tool that reduces medical costs, absenteeism, and stress. Further, the results of having received timely care without having to wait in long lines, improves the sense of empowerment employees have over their health care options.

As the market for health care demand increases with expanding general populations and finite health care professionals and facilities to serve them, telemedicine, along with EHR and self-service health care portals, will be the key to providing the answers on how to serve and support the health care needs without decreasing the quality of care.

If you don’t have the WGAT plan, which includes Doctor on Demand telemedicine services, contact Western Growers Insurance Services for more information and to see how it can help you better manage your health care costs. You can reach a sales team member at (800) 333-4942.