3 Reasons to Offer Virtual Primary Care to Employees
November 8, 2022
First Stop Health
Primary care is proven to better health outcomes by providing whole-person health guidance and care management for patients, improving costs for both employees and employers. The American Academy of Family Physicians defines primary care as “health care services that are person-centered, team-based, community-aligned and designed to achieve better health, better care and lower costs.”1 However, reporting shows that the U.S. falls short in providing such a healthcare experience.
But virtual primary care can make a difference for employers and their employees. From reducing healthcare costs to saving time by skipping in-person care, a virtual care solution offers convenient access to a doctor and encourages employees to prioritize their health.
Here are the 3 reasons to offer a virtual primary care service to employees:
Virtual care that runs independently from the group medical plan decreases healthcare costs for both employers and employees. Cost-free healthcare that does not incur medical claims encourages patients to use virtual primary care. Convenient virtual access also keeps employees out of doctor’s offices, urgent care centers and emergency rooms (ERs), reducing the impact of medical claims and out-of-pocket costs. Electing these expensive healthcare modalities can greatly increase healthcare spending. In fact, ER visits average 12x higher costs than doctor's office visits and waste more than $32 billion in healthcare spending each year.2
For employees living with a chronic condition – which more than 50% of Americans are diagnosed with a chronic disease – medical claims increase, accounting for 86% of healthcare spending.3,4 Plus, 30% of ER visits by those with a chronic condition are potentially avoidable.5 With better care management and early prevention through virtual primary care, employees with a chronic condition can improve their health and reduce claims from unnecessary in-person visits.
Virtual primary care can make a big difference in time savings for employees. On average, patients wait 26 days to see a primary care physician (PCP).6 Virtual primary care drastically reduces wait times so patients can now visit with a PCP within 4 days (on average). Virtual access also removes having to wait in germy, crowded waiting rooms to see a doctor, saving patients even more time. More patients are leaving ERs before being evaluated due to wait times.7
With in-person care, there are many things to consider such as coordinating transportation, having to take time off work or finding childcare. Unsurprisingly, transportation is one of the biggest barriers to accessing healthcare.8 “Americans spend an average of 34 minutes on the road to a doctor’s office or other medical location,” totaling more than an hour of travel time to and from an in-person visit.9 For those who are dependent on public transportation – which about 45% of Americans do not have access to public transportation – the time it takes to get care is much longer.10 About 3.6 million people do not get care annually due to limited transportation access.11
Virtual primary care removes time barriers as employees can meet with a virtual doctor wherever and whenever they need to. No travel or time spent in waiting rooms is required and appointments average 30-35 minutes to give patients ample time with their doctors.
As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, healthcare disparities became increasingly apparent. The Kaiser Family Foundation identifies that healthcare disparities occur over social and economic inequities, which includes socioeconomic status, age, race, geography, language, gender, disability status, citizenship status, and sexual identity and orientation.12 Virtual primary care removes access barriers like cost, geographic limitations and restricted language capabilities. Employees can also choose primary care doctors based on age, gender or race preferences. Virtual primary care doctors offer a safe and inclusive clinical environment to serve all employees and culturally competent care ensures the best support throughout individuals’ unique healthcare journeys.
Patients need to be able to access virtual primary care from different modalities, including phone, app or website based on their preference and comfort level. Not all patients will have the same level of technology, broadband or access to a private space to conduct a health visit. Access should also consider providing resources for different language requirements, differences in vision and hearing abilities and all levels of reading and health education. Virtual primary care can support all employees and make a true difference in equalizing care.
Another report by The Kaiser Family Foundation found that 25% of Americans live in a designated primary care health professional shortage area (HPSA).13Virtual primary care supports access equity and employees can access the care they need wherever it is most convenient for them.
Making a Difference with First Stop Health Virtual Primary Care
Virtual Primary Care is a convenient means to access care. It is comprised of urgent, preventive and chronic care, and is available to members via app, website or phone. Urgent care is available 24/7 for non-emergency, episodic health issues. Preventive and chronic care visits are available when it’s best for the patient (usually within 4 days) and occur with primary doctors from the First Stop Health (FSH) virtual practice. Preventive care encompasses routine check-ups and lab or screening referrals to track overall health. Chronic care is the treatment and maintenance of ongoing health conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure or obesity. By integrating these 3 care areas, FSH helps members with whole-person wellness from the comfort of wherever they are in life. Plus, there are no costs or predefined limits on the number of visits for members.