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January 26, 2021

Telemedicine Surges During Pandemic

There’s no doubt that the COVID-19 pandemic has helped fuel the growth of telemedicine. Although telehealth resources have been available for some time, an International Data Corporation (IDC) report found that an estimated 83.9% of patients were using it for the first time this year.

Offering telehealth services is critical for the rural and ag communities as they support farm workers and other marginalized groups who have difficulty accessing standard medical care.

Telehealth services benefit the ag community in several ways:

•  Telemedicine reduces barriers to care for workers or family members who may live in rural settings, live far away from specialists, have transportation or mobility issues (e.g., older adults or those with limited mobility).

•  A patient can engage with a doctor from any location within minutes.

•  Telehealth services are bilingual, offering the option of Spanish-speaking providers.

•  Patients have peace of mind knowing that a board-certified doctor is only a phone call away, especially if an employee or a covered family member doesn’t have immediate transportation.

•  Telehealth can also improve the healthcare system and helps hospitals and waiting rooms from becoming too crowded and over-populated.

The Western Growers Family exists to ensure the viability and success of its members in the ag community, which is why we are encouraging our members to make use of telehealth services. WGAT is waiving all copays regardless of diagnosis for doctor visits exclusively through our partner Doctor on Demand. This, of course, includes telehealth visits for COVID-19 screenings.

Telehealth services can be extremely cost effective for both employers and employees, which is why it is important to help employees better understand how to use the program and remind them it’s available year-round. Here are a few ways to help boost participation in your program:

•  Provide a telehealth welcome kit to employees. Include FAQs that address employees’ concerns of the quality of the doctors, confidentiality, technical issues that can arise, and the types of issues telemedicine can treat.

•  Provide tutorials on how to use the program that walk employees through the process.

•  Communicate the availability of your telemedicine program through employee newsletters, shared drives, and posters in break rooms.

If you currently don’t offer a telemedicine service to your employees or have health insurance through WGAT (telemedicine is included in every plan), now may be the time to take a closer look. In light of COVID-19, WGAT has expanded its telehealth services by making all telemedicine programs “in network.” If the claim pertains to COVID-19 screening, copays and deductibles are waived. If you don’t have a WGAT plan, you can contact Western Growers Insurance Services for more information and see how it can help you better manage your health care costs. You can reach a sales team member at (800) 333-4WGA.