What is Virtual Primary Care?

February 21, 2023

First Stop Health

Virtual primary care is the delivery of primary care services by a primary care physician (PCP) or other healthcare provider to a patient via video or phone visits. It’s a powerful new modality for getting patients the care they need faster and more conveniently. 

3 Components of Virtual Primary Care  

Virtual primary care is comprised of 1) 24/7 urgent care, 2) chronic care and 3) preventive screenings.  

Virtual urgent care addresses unexpected, nonemergency health visits for acute illnesses such as coughs, bladder infections, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and rashes. During the virtual visit, a doctor can prescribe medication to treat the illness and send that prescription electronically to the patient’s pharmacy of choice.  

Virtual chronic care can manage chronic conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, obesity, musculoskeletal issues and more. Many chronic conditions require extensive counseling on nutrition, exercise and warning signs of complications. Virtual chronic care allows for easier, longer and more frequent visits to better accomplish this counseling by the PCP with the patient. 

Virtual preventive screenings can either be performed or coordinated virtually. For example, there are questionnaire-based screenings for depression and alcohol abuse that can occur directly with the patient during a virtual visit. Likewise, a virtual primary care doctor can refer patients to a gastroenterologist for a screening colonoscopy and women to a local imaging center for their screening mammograms. Virtual preventive screenings are aligned with the United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF).  

Why Use Virtual Primary Care? 

Primary care has been shown to improve health and lower healthcare costs by identifying and treating diseases early such as cardiovascular disease and cancer. However, 60% of people either don’t have or don’t use a PCP.1 

Why? It’s inconvenient to travel to a doctor’s office, wait in a waiting room, take off work or arrange for childcare. It’s also expensive with many doctor visits costing over $100 on a high-deductible health insurance plan. In fact, almost 40% have delayed care due to cost concerns.2 

Virtual primary care makes it easier and less expensive to see a doctor. Visits can occur wherever the patient would like — at home, at work or even in their parked car. It can be provided to employees at little-to-no cost. Virtual primary care reduces the barriers and increases access to care.  

What Do Doctors Think About Virtual Primary Care? 

The study, Comparison of Quality Performance Measures for Patients Receiving In-Person vs Telemedicine Primary Care in a Large Integrated Health System, revealed virtual care outperformed traditional in-person care in almost all quality measures studied.3 Virtual care performed better in 11 out of 16 of the quality measures. Of the 2 out of 5 quality measures that office-only patients indicated performed better, “the differences were not statistically significant, indicating no difference in quality performance between groups in these measures.” Here’s how else virtual care improved patients’ healthcare experiences:  

  1. A positive association of virtual care with improving the quality of primary care 
  2. Patients with virtual care exposure were 2 times more likely to receive a mental health screening. 
  3. Virtual care performed better in-person care in 70% of the quality measures studied 
  4. Patients using virtual care had significantly better performance for chronic disease management and prevention 
  5. Virtual care allows for multiple touchpoints in a patient’s healthcare journey and allows doctors to engage in better quality measures with more interactions 

About First Stop Health (FSH) Virtual Care 

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 connects members to doctors in less than 5 days on average. It consists of urgent, 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. Our digital-first approach expands access to healthcare for our members and provides care that people love.® 

  1. https://www.advisory.com/daily-briefing/2020/02/18/primary-care 
  2. https://www.forbes.com/sites/debgordon/2023/01/24/more-americans-delaying-healthcare-because-of-cost-new-survey-shows 
  3. https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamanetworkopen/fullarticle/2796668 

Originally published Feb 21, 2023 7:21:00 PM.