As we begin the New Year, it’s important to look back at the learnings of 2022. The long-lasting effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, increasing healthcare costs due to inflation and greater claims impacts from chronic diseases are just a few of the headlining trends. For 2023, almost “75% of employers believe that virtual health will significantly impact future health care delivery” and “84% said integrating virtual health and in-person care delivery is critical for success.”1
Here’s a breakdown of the top healthcare concerns from 2022 and virtual care’s impact.
Improving the Mental Health Crisis
With 1 in 5 Americans having a mental health condition and with influences of a 3-year pandemic, mental health support remained a priority for employers in 2022.2 However, there were still barriers to care. A severe mental health provider shortage and a growing demand for mental health support put a strain on healthcare professionals and employees alike. A Kaiser Family Foundation survey revealed that 1/3 of employers said their “health plan’s network didn’t have enough behavioral health care providers for employees to have timely access to the care they need.”3 The shortage of mental health providers drives up wait times to get an appointment. In 2022, some patients had to wait 3 to 6 months (or longer) to get mental health support.4
With virtual care, a provider is always available in a timely manner (less than 3 days on average). Patients do not need to worry about travel or taking time off work and can take appointments in the comfort of a space of their choosing. A study found that “systematic reviews have consistently reported overall high patient satisfaction with interventions delivered via telehealth.”5 By going virtual, patients have access to quality mental health support, personal barriers to care are removed and care is convenient – and even enjoyable. The same study found that: 1) Virtual care provides opportunities for prompt and improved access to behavioral health services and 2) Virtual behavioral health is helping to support reducing health care disparities, particularly among rural and at-risk populations.5 Plus, patients using virtual care were 2x more likely to receive a mental health screening.6
Reducing Healthcare Costs with Cost-Containment Strategies
Coming into 2023, 71% of employers are preparing for moderate to significant increases in healthcare costs in the next few years.7 When compared to the inflation impacts of other goods and services, healthcare prices were not as high and increased 5% between October 2021 and 2022. However, a Kaiser Family Foundation report predicts “the relatively high rate of inflation seen in the rest of the economy may eventually translate to higher prices for medical care, potentially leading to higher health spending and steeper premium increases in the coming years.”8
Virtual care can combat these rising healthcare costs in 3 ways: Not incurring claims, diverting costs from in-person care and being a little-to-no-cost option for employees. As a standalone solution that runs independently from the health plan, virtual care does not incur claims for visits. By diverting in-person care to virtual care, healthcare spend decreases due to avoidance of emergency room (ER), urgent care and doctor’s office visits. For example, 2/3 of ER visits are potentially avoidable and average 12x higher costs than doctor's office visits, wasting more than $32 billion (about $98 per person in the US) in healthcare spending each year.9,10
Navigating Chronic Diseases and Improving Care Management
For employees living with a chronic condition – which 60% of Americans have at least one chronic disease – medical claims increase, accounting for 86% of employer healthcare spending.11,12 Plus, 30% of ER visits by those with a chronic condition are potentially avoidable.13 Improving care management through virtual care can remedy the growing prevalence of chronic diseases and healthcare-cost concerns. In fact, a study found that, unlike patients who solely used in-person care, patients with virtual care experienced significantly better performance for chronic disease management and prevention.6
With better chronic care management, employees with a chronic condition can improve their health and reduce claims from unnecessary in-person visits. Virtual care also supports preventive care and follows United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommended age- and gender-based screenings to make preventive care more accessible. As effective chronic care management requires multiple touchpoints, the convenience of virtual care allows patients and doctors to collaborate and have a dialogue whenever and wherever works best for the patient. Through phone and/or video conversations, virtual care facilitates shared decision making by reducing the time and space barriers to patient communication.
First Stop Health (FSH) – Virtual care that people love!
FSH virtual care solutions are comprised of Primary Care, Urgent Care and Mental Health, and deliver patient-first care to members where and when they need it. Virtual Primary Care consists of preventive and chronic care to help coordinate and manage the many touchpoints of members’ healthcare journeys. With Virtual Urgent Care (Telemedicine), members have access to 24/7 urgent care for episodic health concerns. Virtual Mental Health provides counseling to members, and in conjunction with Virtual Primary Care guidance and medication management, leads to better whole-person health.
Related FSH Blogs: Virtual Primary Care Journey: Mental Health Concern Addressed in Less Than 24 Hours, 3 Ways Virtual Care Combats Inflation and Rising Healthcare Costs and Virtual Primary Care for Breast Cancer Prevention