County considers telemedicine for employees

Bartholomew County government workers would be able to receive medical assistance at the touch of their fingertips under a proposal that will be considered next week.

Bartholomew County commissioners are considering contracting with SwiftMD, a telemedicine provider. The service allows participants to communicate with a doctor 24 hours a day, seven days a week by phone or online. Physicians discuss a person’s condition, provides a diagnosis and can recommend treatment, according to SwiftMD’s website.

The service would be beneficial to the 400 people who work for Bartholomew County government, commissioner Carl Lienhoop said. SwiftMD was brought to the county’s attention through its healthcare provider, Dunn & Associates, he said.

By utilizing the service, county employees and family members could avoid a trip to the emergency room in some cases, he said.

“I think the bottom line is to save our health plan some money. But at the same time in the technological age, it will perhaps help our employees with their health issues,” Lienhoop said.

SwiftMD can treat dozens of general and urgent care conditions, including chicken pox, diarrhea, fever and flu, headaches, sore throats, among others, according to its website.

The service could be a good resource for parents with young children, commissioner Larry Kleinhenz said.

Bartholomew County’s health plan costs $5.25 million annually through monies from the general fund and employee contributions to their coverage, Lienhoop said. County Auditor Barbara Hackman said employees’ health insurance premiums for this year remain the same as what was in place last year.

Potential cost savings — which would be based on the volume of use — were not forecast.

Under the proposal, Lienhoop said county government employees who choose to participate would pay $2.50 per month, or $30 annually, to participate in the SwiftMD program. Lienhoop said he didn’t yet know what county government’s share of the cost would be.

Lienhoop said the service has been used in other counties across Indiana.

“Based on the concept, I have to agree with our insurance provider it’s worth trying,” Lienhoop said.

The SwiftMD proposal will be considered Monday during the commissioners’ next meeting.

At a glance

What is telemedicine?

The American Telemedicine website defines telemedicine as the remote delivery of health care services and clinical information using telecommunications technology. It can include clinical services using Internet, wireless, satellite and telephone media.

There are about 200 telemedicine networks, with 3,500 service sites in the United States. More than half of all hospitals in the country use some form of telemedicine, according to the association.

Source: American Telemedicine Association website

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Matt Kent is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at 812-379-5712 or mkent@therepublic.com