New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie signed 53 bills into law on July 21. Included in the batch was legislation that establishes a framework for the responsible use of telehealth for New Jersey residents.
The law permits health care providers to see patients virtually, using electronic methods such as a mobile device or a computer, allowing patients to stay connected to their personal doctor for check-ins and follow-up care, without having to take the time to go into the physician office for each visit.
For the busy employee getting ready for work, taking kids to school and finding time to have dinner as a family, telehealth is a convenient way to access medical care quickly. Employers offering benefits like this can witness the value through happier, healthier employees spending less time away from work.
It can also help keep costs down — a primary concern of employers today. Connecting directly with a range of practitioners helps reduce the need for expensive emergency room visits that occur after regular office hours.
Telehealth has been around in various forms for a few years, yet the proliferation of mobile devices and high-speed data connections makes it easier for anyone to talk to a doctor using live audio and video technology.
As a health insurer, UnitedHealthcare has been offering New Jersey plan participants the option of telehealth for many common health issues. Services like UnitedHealthcare’s Virtual Visits are covered by most employer-sponsored medical plans and are available to patients at any time of day via a mobile device or computer.
Doctors can diagnose and treat many nonemergency medical conditions and even write a prescription. The visits are an efficient use of time for both patient and doctor, and the cost of a virtual visit is lower than that of a visit to an urgent-care center or emergency room.
Once an online appointment is complete, patients have access to a visit summary they can give their primary care physician to ensure the information becomes part of their permanent medical record.
It’s important to note that Virtual Visits are good for common conditions like allergies, bronchitis, coughs, diarrhea, fever and pinkeye; however, sometimes an in-person diagnosis by the doctor is necessary. Orthopedic injuries like broken bones or sprains are not diagnosed over a computer. Patients with cancer or other complex conditions, and those with chronic conditions, should still see their physician in person for care.
Anyone experiencing a medical emergency should call 911 and seek appropriate emergency medical assistance.
You can learn more about UnitedHealthcare Virtual Visits by clicking here.
Paul Marden is CEO of UnitedHealthcare of New Jersey.