Previously in this series: A shot in the arm: Pandemic has brought more, and often lower-cost, telehealth options
The National Association of Small Trucking Companies is no stranger to telemedicine, said President David Owen. When he first met officials for telemedicine service HelpMD at the Great American Trucking Show in Dallas four years ago, he saw how it could be a “no-brainer for an over-the-road truck driver, particularly if he’s got a family,” he said.
One reason is the driver’s access to a licensed doctor in any state. Another is that the driver’s family at home gets the same access whenever they need it. Owen said the relatively inexpensive nature for such a service could help his association members set themselves apart from other carriers, helping them recruit and retain the million-mile drivers they all seek.
NASTC has offered a telemedicine service at a discounted $12.50 per month per driver for around four years, Owen said, though the uptake among the membership has been lower than he’d expected. As the COVID-19 pandemic developed, “We offered two months of free HelpMD telemedicine to all 100,000 drivers” NASTC’s members employ. NASTC, pitching their offer to carrier ownership, saw only a small fraction of the membership take up the offer, and fewer still stayed with it after the two-month trial.
The National Association of Independent Truckers introduced its telehealth program to its 15,000-plus owner-operator members early this year at no additional expense. Many members still don’t know the service is available through a smartphone app as part of their $11 monthly membership fee, said Jason Sheets, NAIT senior vice president.
The service is accessed by the app’s “24/7 Doctor button, which is tied through a subscription NAIT has with a national [telehealth] provider,” Sheets said. Based on your location when you tap the button, the service will pair you “with a doctor licensed in that area. They can’t take temperature over the phone, but they can give advice based on symptoms over the video chat. Once that takes place, the doc is also able to send prescriptions, if need be.”
After the service’s Feb. 1 launch, wait times within the app for a consult were five to 10 minutes, Sheets said. Then the pandemic hit, and wait times went to two to three hours, but “you don’t just sit there and wait on the phone,” Sheets said. Rather, you’ll be put in a virtual queue and sent a notification when it’s time for your consult.
The service’s docs cannot refer for COVID-19 testing, but they can be relied on for professional advice. A member’s spouse and children also can access the service with the NAIT membership ID and the member’s date of birth.
“The big push for telemedicine,” Sheets said, is to keep people out of docs’ offices if they don’t need to be there. “The fewer people we have on the streets, the less we have a chance of spreading this, and the fewer in health facilities, that’s less stress on gowns and goggles and everything” those providers need.
Members can activate the app by downloading “SHOWBenefits” from Google Play or the Apple App Store and entering their NAIT member ID number and date of birth. Sheets said it can take up to 24 hours after downloading the app before the 24/7 Doctor function activates.