December 18, 2019

Virtual care no longer just valued benefit, it's now a must have

Improving access to medical care while containing costs continues to be a crucial driver in the transformation of the healthcare industry. While controversy remains about the most effective ways to do so, one solution on which all parties agree is the importance of incorporating virtual care into any comprehensive healthcare program. Indeed, 51% of large employers say that expanding virtual care options they offer to their employees is a top priority in 2020. Sixty-four percent of U.S. hospitals and health systems now offer consumer virtual care programs and an additional 24% plan to over consumer telemedicine by the end of next year. On the insurer side, AHIP reports that 94% of all commercial health insurers, 92% of all Medicare Advantage plans, and 93% of Medicaid managed care plans currently offer or are considering offering virtual care services.

Virtual Care Offers Unprecedented Choice

Thanks to digital and "big data" technologies, choice abounds in terms of what and whom consumers turn to access products and services. Because "big data" now makes it possible to customize and personalize nearly all aspects of customers' online experience, consumers increasingly demand such personalization when it comes to their healthcare needs as well. As "digital native" generations age and have higher healthcare needs, speeding adoption rates, they will look to virtual care to satisfy their expectations for effectiveness and convenience. Already, more than 70% of American consumers express interest in telemedicine as it provides a broader range of choices in providers, services offered, and when, where, and how those services are provided.

Choosing the right virtual care solution

Because of the rapid rate at which plan sponsors and health systems are embracing virtual care offerings, those administrators will need to thoughtfully evaluate partners to find the platform that works best for their organization. Currently, companies and consumers can choose from more than 165,000 mobile health apps worldwide. Many of those apps, it should be noted, only provide a single virtual service or focus solely on a single clinical specialty. At the same time, some of the most prominent players in the enterprise-wide tech sector are hastily adapting their current offerings for healthcare. While they have the resources, global reach, and reputation that comes with a highly successful IT brand, plan sponsors should be leery of virtual care suppliers who have limited clinical care experience.

Health systems also have important decisions to make when selecting virtual care partners — they should ensure partners can enable diverse use, deliver scalable and secure solutions, and fully integrate with and complement the health system's brand and business models. Judd Hollander, M.D., senior vice president of health care delivery innovation of Jefferson Health, a 14-hospital health system in Philadelphia which recently made a significant commitment to telehealth when it contracted with us to provide a configurable cloud-based Software as a Service (SaaS) consumer telemedicine platform, shares the following tips when selecting a qualified virtual care supplier:

  1. Don't try to figure out what kinds of hardware and software to buy until you have developed your strategy. Strategy must come first.

  2. Don't adopt something that isn't designed for a health system.

  3. Before you sign a contract, make the vendor demonstrate its program on multiple browsers and devices behind your firewall, because that is where it has to work.

Working with Health Systems and Plan Sponsors

Ranked #1 in Customer Satisfaction by J.D. Power, Teladoc Health works closely with clients to customize a suite of virtual care services that meets their unique needs. With more than 12,000 clients around the world, we serve consumer-members in 30 languages in 130 countries with access to healthcare providers spanning 450 subspecialties, including general practice, pediatrics, cancer care, mental health, sports medicine, and nutrition. We also help clients increase utilization, given that 43% of employees admit to never using the healthcare tools available from their employer.

To solve this challenge, Lowe's Home Improvement teamed with Teladoc Health to reach its employees with suggestions and recommendations on which of the many benefits employees should access based on their needs. This included recommending and scheduling 2,881 virtual care visits through Teladoc Health in a single year.

As a result, Lowe's employees reported improved satisfaction with their health benefits and the company saved two million dollars in a single year. Now, more than ever, plan sponsors rely on virtual care to manage healthcare costs and strengthen member satisfaction. We expect even more organizations to embrace what we call the Virtual First benefit design, which encourages consumers to select a virtual visit first with a health provider to improve outcomes and lower costs.

Dan Trencher is senior vice president of product and corporate strategy for Teladoc Health. He oversees new growth opportunities and products, leading business initiatives that deliver compelling user experiences and transforms how people access quality care.