The COVID-19 pandemic brought with it a healthcare revolution. It taught the world to leverage access to technology to implement practices and applications to bring healthcare to the population amidst quarantine.
One key result of the healthcare revolution is the introduction of Virtual Primary Care (VPC) into regular healthcare routines. Telemedicine was a core driver during the pandemic, as a HIPAA-compliant alternative to in-person physician visits. Once patients and physicians realized how convenient, accessible and affordable this form of practice was, it sparked the possibility of incorporating telemedicine-like practices more frequently, making it a standard healthcare practice.
The core difference between telemedicine and Virtual Primary Care is that VPC offers a wider range of services to patients, nearly identical to what you’d expect with an in-person visit to your primary care physician. The introduction of VPC is more than a prediction of healthcare’s future. It’s now a reality.
At Totem, we partner with Eden Health, a direct-to-employer medical provider that’s implemented Virtual Primary Care in a way unlike some of the other big players. Their commitment is to serve as a valuable resource that takes care of employees –– and the best way to do that in this day and age is to implement innovative approaches to healthcare that make it easy and accessible.
In addition to Virtual Primary Care, providers like Eden Health are taking virtual care to the next level by looping in mental health providers, specialists, pediatrics and unlimited talk therapy. Eden Health is thinking beyond pairing today’s technology with only the traditional primary care model, and we know many other providers will soon follow in their footsteps.
As the future of healthcare continues to change and adopt new programs and applications, we believe it’s crucial to stay ahead of the times and understand how these practices can and will affect both your employees and your benefits packages.
Here are 3 things you need to know about Virtual Primary Care:
Your employees can have direct access to one primary care provider.
With the Telemedicine model, patients are typically assigned to whichever physician is available at the time. But with VPC, patients can connect with the same physician every time, allowing for a stronger and more thorough patient/physician relationship. Most patients prefer to have an established physician that’s familiar with their medical history and unique health concerns.
Think of it this way: Telemedicine is like an Uber driver –– there may be a great conversation or awkward silence. Maybe the car is clean and comfortable –– or there’s a lurking smell you can’t quite figure out. Either way, will you ever see that Uber driver again? Probably not. Virtual Primary Care is more aligned with a private driver –– you know what to expect, it will be a pleasant experience and that driver will pick you up again and again.
VPC providers can manage chronic illnesses, not just acute conditions and symptoms.
This is a core difference between telemedicine and VPC. Before VPC, physicians were only permitted to provide treatment guidance and prescriptions for acute conditions and symptoms (most COVID-19 focused). In short, telemedicine physicians were authorized to address conditions that did not affect the amount an employer’s health plan spends. With VPC, the physician has full access to patients’ health history and can serve as a trusted provider to help patients manage long-term medical conditions.
And, as we mentioned earlier about providers like Eden Health, virtual care is extending into integrated mental healthcare. This is critical in providing employees with the mental health support they desire and deserve. Plus, when you compare Traditional Primary Care to Virtual Primary Care, the latter wins every time. Why? Unlimited access, increased convenience, the ability to integrate with an entire care team and place the necessary emphasis on mental health. At the end of the day, employees want access to virtual care, and it’s time you give it to them!
VPC is more than primary care and will ultimately reduce costs for health plans.
Many VPCs provide more than appointments with primary care physicians. Additional offerings include virtual nurse care teams, labs, testing, mental health counseling, dermatology, specialty care and 24/7 urgent care. The future of Virtual Primary Care holds much more than annual check-ups. This new wave of healthcare is projected to reduce costs for company health plans through the incorporation of proactive care.
Instead of the strictly reactive care approach that telemedicine offered, opening up VPC to address preventative care will ultimately close gaps in healthcare that increased tremendously during COVID-19. The implementation of Virtual Primary Care offerings is projected to decrease a large portion of Emergency Room and Specialist visits just by having an increased amount of time with a primary care provider virtually.
If you haven’t already, thinking about how to incorporate Virtual Primary Care into your benefits packages is a must for your employees, and these 3 things you need to know about Virtual Primary Care are a start. But don’t worry –– you don’t have to go at this alone.
At Totem, we’re committed to working with employers to avoid the rigid, benefits-in-a-box solutions many providers offer. This requires us to stay up-to-date with current healthcare trends and revolutions, thoroughly understanding the market to best provide advice and guidance so employers can better be there for their employees.
Learn more about our specialized Benefits Consulting services, or connect with a member of the Totem team.