Pioneering virtual primary care solutions offer urgent sick visits, scheduled chronic condition visits, preventive care in the form of whole-person health guidance and routine screenings, and referrals all via phone or video. Employers can sign up with virtual primary care to provide care for their employees and their family members for ease of access, affordability, and reduced exposure. Here’s how virtual primary care treats the three main components of primary care:
- Sick Visits: One of the most common reasons for using virtual primary care is for unexpected illnesses and health problems. Examples include cough, bladder infections, joint pain, nausea/vomiting and rashes. Sick visits are usually unexpected and Virtual Primary Care offers improved access for same-day visits with a doctor or other healthcare provider. Patients do not need to first call and set up an in-person appointment. They do not need to travel to the clinic, miss work, or arrange for childcare. Removing barriers to care is a great advantage of virtual primary care companies.
- Scheduled Chronic Condition Visits: Another common reason for using virtual primary care is for chronic conditions. Examples include diabetes, high cholesterol and depression. Chronic conditions typically benefit from increased counseling on medication management and lifestyle modifications such as nutrition and exercise. virtual primary care improves doctor-patient relationships by making communication easier and allowing for more routine and frequent touch points.
- Prevention: The third area virtual primary care addresses is prevention. Preventive screening falls into several categories. First, there are questionnaire-based screenings for depression, substance abuse and smoking that can be accomplished during a virtual visit. Second, there are home-monitoring screenings such as body mass index (BMI) and blood pressure. Third, there are lab-based screenings that a virtual doctor can order for a person to then have their blood drawn in person to check things like blood glucose and cholesterol. Fourth, there are imaging screenings such as mammograms for women and CT scans of the lungs for patients with an extensive smoking history. The virtual primary care doctor can order these scans so they can be performed at an in-person imaging facility. Finally, there are referral-based screenings such as referral to a gastroenterologist for a screening colonoscopy. Prevention also includes a focus on whole person wellness and culturally competent care. Virtual primary care doctors will take time to learn about a patient’s lifestyle and environment to help them along their health journey.
How Employers Can Utilize Virtual Primary Care Companies
Employers can contract directly with a virtual primary care company to provide care for their employee health plan members. The virtual primary care company can act as a middle layer of care between the plan population and the major medical plan itself. Plan members will still need major medical insurance for emergencies, hospitalizations, labor & delivery, surgery and specialist care. However, the virtual primary care layer can be offered to employees at little or no out-of-pocket cost to plan members, making it easy and zero cost to catch and treat medical problems early, therefore preventing the need for many hospitalizations, surgery and specialist care.
Virtual primary care companies offer employers a strategy to prevent the high-cost claimants that drive 50-80% of total plan claims costs. High-cost claimants frequently fall into the diagnostic categories of musculoskeletal, cardiovascular disease and cancer. Virtual primary care companies can address bio-psycho-social determinants of musculoskeletal pain and prevent often unneeded and unsuccessful surgeries. Virtual primary care companies can identify and treat the silent diseases of diabetes, hypertension and high cholesterol that are the underlying cause of catastrophic cardiovascular events such as heart attacks. Finally, virtual primary care companies can catch cancer sooner through adherence to screening guidelines so cancers can be removed early before they spread.
Virtual primary care is an innovative population health strategy for employers and their employee health plan members. They can reduce disease and suffering, improve care and lower healthcare costs. Virtual primary care companies offer a solution whose time has come.