Since the start of the pandemic, healthcare providers nationwide have launched telehealth programs to adapt to patient needs in a socially distanced world. This is especially true of primary care. Indeed, virtual primary care plans are popping up all over as healthcare companies race to introduce new products and capture market share.
The only problem? This quick shift has led to care plans that often are piecemeal and don’t provide the full spectrum of primary care services. With an incomplete plan, employers and their staff can’t maximize the full benefits of virtual primary care – like cost savings, improved productivity and quick and convenient access to preventive health services.
Why Primary Care Matters
Primary care is not only essential in helping people manage chronic conditions like diabetes and hypertension, but it also covers preventive care that could offset future health complications.
For example, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality reports that regular, accessible primary care results in more timely treatment and lower mortality rates across the board.
While all American adults should receive yearly checkups, Gallup reports that fewer than 75% of those under age 50 do. Much of this may be due to convenience and accessibility issues. The best virtual primary care plans make it easy for people of all ages to stay on top of their wellness – without the hassle of an in-person visit. Other plans promise the moon, but fall short in several fundamental ways.
You Can’t Choose Your Own Provider
Few virtual primary care programs allow you to choose your own doctor. Instead, members are simply assigned a provider, which is anything but ideal. When the primary goal is to connect the patient with a doctor as quickly as possible, there’s likely to be a mismatch.
Some employees may prefer to see a woman versus a man. Others may feel more comfortable with a young clinician instead of a doctor who’s nearing retirement. The point is this: giving employees the opportunity to choose a provider who aligns with their personality, preferences, values and goals can help ensure patient buy-in, leading to better, more consistent care and improved health outcomes.
You Can’t Build Relationships
On one end of the spectrum are virtual primary care plans that provide a “one-and-done” doctor visit. In this case, the employee’s care is likely to suffer because the doctor doesn’t know much about the patient — and vice versa. On the other end are programs that allow patients to hand-pick their doctor, leading to trusting, long-term relationships.
Why is this important? Duke University suggests that a strong patient-doctor bond positively influences health outcomes by increasing mutual satisfaction and understanding, which contributes to better adherence to treatment plans and greater patient reassurance. Trust is the biggest factor here, as it extends to all aspects of care. The more trust a patient has in their doctor, the more comfortable they’ll feel discussing their health issues, leading to more accurate diagnoses.
They Don’t Have Intelligent Referrals
When it comes to referrals for specialty services, most telehealth companies place the burden of searching for specialists on the patients. It’s up to them to scour reviews to find the right providers. This is a tall order since the healthcare system is notoriously difficult to navigate — from picking an in-network provider to searching for pricing information in an industry that tends to hide costs.
Patients need a virtual primary care provider who does this homework on their behalf and helps them access the services they need – like a patient care quarterback.
They Don’t Guide Employees to the Best Rx Prices
Many virtual care solutions claim to save employers money, but they’re missing many opportunities to cut costs. This includes prescription drug pricing, which differs wildly from one pharmacy to the next. One Consumer Reports survey found that prescription costs could vary by as much as 10 times among pharmacies, even in the same city. If the virtual primary care plan doesn’t include a built-in process that guides members to the best price, then their employers are leaving money on the table.
Perks like this will keep workers and their families healthy, safe and loyal — and give companies an opportunity to save money and boost their bottom line.
They Skimp on Some Services
Some virtual primary care plans cut corners, leaving employees without access to necessary services. A good plan should include preventive care and access to routine labs, as well as 24/7 urgent care providing on-demand treatment of common illnesses and injuries, like stomach bugs, allergic reactions, cuts and burns.
Virtual urgent care ensures employees can access care quickly – even at night, on holidays or during the weekend. Not only does this save businesses money on per-visit costs, but it keeps employees out of high-priced ERs for issues that don’t require emergency treatment. Granting employees access to both primary and urgent care through one, streamlined platform ensures all their medical needs are covered.
Learn more about MeMD’s comprehensive virtual primary care solutions.