Knowledge Expansion

Advances in virtual care: Trends medical practices need to know

Insight Article

Patient Care Technology

Robin Farmanfarmaian
As of June 1, 2018, VA physicians can have a virtual visit with any VA patient, regardless of the state in which the physician and patient are physically located. This is an important change, as previously for the VA (and currently outside of the VA), physicians need to be licensed in the state where the patient is located. However, it’s unrealistic for physicians to be licensed in every state, as each state charges a few hundred dollars for the license and may require different CMEs. By erasing state boundaries for virtual care, the VA is greatly expanding physicians’ ability to care for patients.
Globally, virtual care is growing — from an $18.1B industry in 2015 to a $41.2B industry by 2021. This growth helps provide patients with better access to healthcare providers; oftentimes not as a replacement for an in-person clinic visit, but as the only way the patient will see a provider. For an in-person visit, patients need to take a half day or more off from school or work and find a way to transport themselves to the clinic. This could take many hours if they are in a rural area, and in some cases could produce a financial hardship (e.g., workers with an hourly wage or cost of public transportation). Even if a patient is already located near a clinic, the obstacles to physically attend the visit may deter the patient from talking to a provider at all.
Virtual care can be the first step on a patient’s journey, helping direct the patient to appropriate, personalized in-person care. It can be especially helpful for patients who are unsure if they should go to the ER and might otherwise put off going to the hospital. If a physician says they should be seen right away during a virtual visit, that can serve as huge motivation for a patient to go to an ER or urgent care.
Virtual care can also help patients manage chronic conditions and prevent or even reverse some conditions. For example: With proper behavior change, patients with pre-diabetes can potentially avoid developing diabetes. But behavior change — the key to preventing diabetes — is hard, especially without help. That’s why companies like Fruit Street are engaging and supporting pre-diabetic patients through group virtual visits and a robust platform that allows participants to upload photos of their meals.
Fruit Street is not alone. CVS announced a new partnership with Teledoc that they plan to roll out nationally by the end of the year, giving patients the option of immediate, $59 physician visits via mobile phone. American Well just raised $290M for its virtual care programs, bringing total funding to over $440M. Samsung and Philips are on board as well, because they understand American Well’s big vision: to be the connecting technology between employers, payers, providers and consumers.
One Medical offers its members free on-demand virtual care visits with a nurse or physician’s assistant, no matter where the patient is located. One Medical is a primary care medical practice that in addition to billing payers normally also charges every patient an annual subscription fee of around $150. This gives patients access to benefits such as next-day appointments, on-site blood labs and on-demand virtual care.
Payers like United Healthcare are partnering with virtual care platforms and emailing members with questions such as, “Do you need to see a doctor now? Click here to virtually see a doctor on-demand for your standard copay.” The insurance company knows that informing and reminding patients of the virtual care option could help avoid significant ER bills.
Current healthcare systems were not built with patient convenience or experience in mind. But technology is changing that and allowing healthcare providers to offer better accessibility and more patient-centered care. This can improve patient outcomes, which is everyone’s main goal.

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About the Author

Robin Farmanfarmaian
Robin Farmanfarmaian

Robin Farmanfarmaian believes that technology can empower patients and make a positive impact in the health and medical field. This position drives her to provide education and resources to leaders, entrepreneurs, physicians, healthcare professionals and innovators to positively impact medicine and healthcare. Farmanfarmaian is the President of i4j ECO – an Innovation for Jobs conference that explores the future of work and technology. In addition, she is the SVP for the Arc Fusion Summit, a biotech and medtech conference, and Co-Founder and Executive Director for the Organ Preservation Alliance, catalyzing breakthroughs in transplants, organ banking, cryopreservation and tissue engineering. She’s also actively involved as VP of Business Development with INVICTA Medical, a device company for acute care/post anesthesia and sleep apnea, poised to impact hundreds of millions of patients.