As a team of benefits strategists, we work hard every day to make sure we’re exceeding client expectations and providing the most innovative and value-generating plan designs and advisory services.
Virtual Primary Care – COVID Novelty or Potential Competitive Advantage?
Virtual primary care (VPC)—primary health care services delivered online or via phone—has increased in popularity as telemedicine has become more prominent. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, telemedicine allowed more people to access health care services remotely. Now, virtual primary care is an increasingly preferred means to receive health care without going to a physical doctor’s office. With virtual primary care, people can receive comprehensive health care services from the comfort of their homes. Virtual care raises a lot of questions. How does it work? Who delivers it? Why should I care?
Is Virtual primary care just a trend, brought on by COVID-19, or a mainstay benefit employers can offer in their benefits package to potentially win over new hires and retain current talent? For starters, how does it work?
Virtual Primary Care Explained
Virtual primary care is a way to receive primary health care services without needing to go to an in-person doctor’s office. Such care can be thought of in three parts: 24/7 urgent care services, chronic care and preventative screenings. Virtual primary care can be used to manage chronic conditions like diabetes, or it can be used to screen for issues like anxiety and depression through the administration of questionnaire-based screenings. Additionally, doctors can write prescriptions for some acute illnesses during virtual visits that do not require an in-person assessment.
Who is offering VPC?
A variety of doctors provide virtual primary health care, and it is more than just urgent care services. Virtual primary care doctors are licensed to prescribe ongoing medication, schedule follow-up visits and refer patients to other specialists. Further, most virtual providers have a workforce of physicians, nurse practitioners and care coordinators to ensure that patients receive the comprehensive care they need. While urgent care generally only helps patients treat immediate health concerns, virtual primary care is a digital alternative to long-term, whole-body care. There are also a variety of organizations that provide virtual primary care. For example, digital health companies have begun to contract with employers to provide it to employees, and some previously in-person practices moved entirely online due to the pandemic.
Online Healthcare: Here to Stay
While the rise in popularity of online healthcare can, in part, be attributed to the pandemic, it is more than a fleeting trend. There are several reasons that virtual primary care is important. Foremost, online health services expand access to health care more generally. People who may not have access to in-person providers now have the option to get substantial care online. Further, online health care is more convenient for most people, even if traveling to in-person offices may be an option for them. Meeting with providers online can be much faster and help people receive the care they need more quickly. Additionally, virtual primary health care is often less expensive than traditional medical visits, as it can reduce costs associated with traveling to see a doctor or taking time off from work.
Apex’s own vice president of Kinetiq Health, Sarah Michaels, RN, CPBS expanded on virtual care’s capacity to enhance an employee’s relationship to medical care “Virtual care will never alleviate the need to build an ongoing relationship with a dedicated provider. However, it will certainly help strengthen that relationship. Virtual care goes far beyond acute, sick visits and can be a great answer for managing chronic conditions 365 days a year.” Virtual primary care is not some trend that will fade away, it is an enhancement to the healthcare journey that is here to stay.
Doing more for your employees, for less.
Read that one more time. More for less often sounds too good to be true, but not this time. Virtual primary care is an efficient, cost-effective way for more people to access health care more easily. Moving forward, employers will offer virtual primary care as a part of an integrated benefits package. Those who do not offer it, could so be in the minority. As more employees look for ways to stretch every dollar of their benefits package, VPC could become more than just an alternative to doctor’s visits. Instead, it could be a true asset to your employees, and a competitive differentiator in your efforts to find and keep top talent.
For more information about virtual primary care or building a better benefits package, contact Apex Benefits today.