Primary care has been rethought: a virtual gateway to healthcare

Many healthcare users today are turning away from traditional primary care because current experience does not meet consumer expectations, say some industry observers.

And when consumers give up, the promise of traditional first aid cannot be realized, leading to increased use of emergency and urgent care, undiagnosed chronic conditions, unmet mental health needs and more problems, they added.

Rob Bresler, senior vice president of Primary360 at Teladoc Health, argues that virtual primary care inspires lasting relationships between patients and providers through a longitudinal care plan, ongoing team support and a unified whole-person experience.

Health plans that use virtual first aid, he continues, can better fill gaps in care, reduce costs, deliver better clinical outcomes and expand access to care.

IT news in healthcare sat down with Bressler to talk about how he would rethink primary care in an era where telehealth has become widespread, and how this rethought primary care can fill gaps in care, reduce costs and deliver improved outcomes.

Q. You are great at rethinking primary care. Why do you think primary care should be reconsidered?

A. Primary care is widely accepted as a valuable model of care that helps limit rising costs. Primary caregivers identify their health problems earlier and more effectively, have better adherence to medications, enjoy better management of chronic diseases, and ultimately achieve better health outcomes. .

Despite the benefits, approximately 50% of adults aged 18-49 have not had a recent primary care visit and many have no contact with a primary care physician. In addition, primary care is facing PCP shortages due to retirees, deteriorating job satisfaction and burnout, and a challenging economy.

The pandemic exacerbated these problems. There has been a dramatic decline in the number of personal visits to the primary care office during COVID, with a decline in screening, preventive care and other primary care services. As a result, many primary care practices had to be reduced or even closed permanently, which only exacerbated the existing PCP shortage.

As primary care is a key factor in the prevention, health and management of chronic conditions, the shortcomings of the link to primary care can lead to more vulnerable populations and limit the potential benefits to patients.

The promise of providing quality first aid in a more user-friendly and efficient way, combined with the expected shortage of PCPs, shows that the demand for virtual first aid will increase significantly over the next few years.

Q. What does your rethought first aid look like and what role does telemedicine play?

A. Virtual primary care rethinks primary care, understanding the patient’s needs over time, proactively and seamlessly directs them to the right care, whether for emergency needs, specialized care, wellness visit or outside.

It offers first aid through ongoing contact with a specialist primary care physician and care team, where patients benefit from virtual access to 24/7 emergency care, prevention, screening and ongoing management in a comfortable and highly personalized experience.

Virtual primary care can address the challenges of traditional care and help fill existing care gaps. With it, consumers experience reduced waiting times and increased time spent with a provider, earlier detection of chronic conditions, overall care coordination and lower costs.

C. You argue that health plans that use virtual first aid can better fill gaps in care, reduce costs, provide better clinical outcomes, and expand access to care. Please explain how.

A. Virtual first aid, embedded in a virtual health plan, offers a new alternative to employers and health plans to reduce costs while improving members’ outcomes and engagement.

These plans create a benefits design that is optimized for members who prefer a virtual front door to care that we know more and more people are interested in. Plan sponsors can then tailor the plan design and engagement strategies to those who have expressed an interest in virtual care and can achieve both costs and quality measures through this.

It is also important to note that primary care is an important driver of chronic, specialized and mental health and thus a key factor influencing outcomes. Virtual first aid can be optimized to act as a hub for these other services.

The result is better access to convenient, personalized healthcare, leading to a high degree of member satisfaction, combined with better results and lower overall costs for our customers.

The healthcare ecosystem is evolving and it is clear that improving health outcomes will require taking into account the central role of virtual planning decisions as an opportunity to meet the needs of consumers and transform the quality of primary care.

Twitter: @SiwickiHealthIT
Send an email to the writer: [email protected]
Healthcare IT News is a media publication of HIMSS.

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