The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way employers view a lot of things, especially health care for themselves and for their employees. One trend that has expanded during this time is the use of virtual health care, which can be a solution for getting and monitoring care without having to schedule an in-office doctor’s appointment, making this a convenient, efficient and affordable option for all.
Virtual care medical professionals are the same doctors, nurse practitioners and physician assistants you would find in a doctor’s office and most of their care is delivered via smart phone or tablet, video or even by email. There are a variety of online applications specifically designed for virtual care including MyChart, MDLive or Teladoc.
One of the crucial benefits of virtual care is 24/7 access to quality health care, meaning employees can contact a board-certified doctor on their time and often without taking time off. Within the time it would generally take for an employee to log off work, drive to their doctor and wait to be seen, a virtual care doctor can discuss their symptoms, make a diagnosis, and provide a prescription if necessary. The providers can be requested to send documentation to the patient’s primary care physician.
From a cost-savings perspective, the cost of virtual care services is usually less than a non-emergency trip to an urgent care clinic or the emergency room. For example, the cost to visit the ER for a sinus infection could be as high as $740, while a virtual visit for a sinus infection usually costs around $50 or even less. Due to the pandemic, many health plans, including Priority Health, are offering $0 cost share for most virtual care visits through 2021 to meet the needs of their members. Employers should check with their health insurance provider to see if this is being offered.
Virtual care services extend beyond seeing a provider for common conditions such as a sore throat, ear infection or runny nose. Several providers offer behavioral health and substance use virtual care to meet the specific needs of patients. If a patient is hospitalized for whatever reason, virtual care may be set up to monitor for any post-discharge or long-term needs making a more streamlined recovery time.
Employers who are interested in seeing what virtual care options are available through their health insurance should contact their health insurance agent or log into their provider’s account for more information. Priority Health is committed to assisting employers and their members by offering $0 cost share ahead of deductible for virtual care and telehealth services, including medical and behavioral health telemedicine on many fully funded plans in 2021.
Dr. James Forshee leads clinical and pharmacy programs, the development and coordination of population health programs and chronic disease management strategies at Priority Health. He also steers strategic planning to further the company’s mission of improving health, enhancing patient experience and effectively managing cost.