A Case of Apples vs Oranges
Remote delivery of medical care via telemedicine has gained widespread acceptance and increased market share over the past several years. Convenience, accessibility, and affordability lead the list of benefits that make telemedicine a practical alternative to in-office physician visits.
But even with all of the positives, the bottom-line value of telemedicine has come under scrutiny due to its limited scope of application, its lack of care continuity, and its low utilization rate (an average of 3-7% of employees use their company’s telemedicine benefit).
Virtual Direct Primary Care distinguishes itself in areas where traditional telemedicine is deficient, and Virtual DPC can approach the same 20-30% savings on healthcare expenditures that has been shown with direct primary care.
Virtual Direct Primary Care is Not Traditional Telemedicine
Like telemedicine, Virtual DPC delivers its services by phone, app, email and through video conference. Unlike telemedicine, Virtual DPC offers a broad range of primary care services that approximates what you would expect from a face-to-face visit with a traditional primary care physician (other than a 45-minute wait in the waiting room).
Advantages of Virtual DPC vs. Telemedicine
1. Employees have access to their primary care doctor instead of “a” doctor.
With telemedicine, a patient contacts an anonymous bank of doctors, where the doctor next in queue assesses the patient through a series of questions. This doctor then provides a treatment recommendation or prescription. The information collected through the remote session is sent to the patient’s named primary care doctor, but the next time the patient calls in, they’ll get a different doctor and the get-to-know-you process will begin all over again.
With Virtual DPC, a patient connects with the same primary care doctor every time—their personal Direct Primary Care doctor—the one who knows and has access to that patient’s complete medical history; the same doctor who is familiar with and understands his or her patient’s unique health concerns.
2. Virtual DPC doctors work to reduce unnecessary spending.
Telemedicine doctors simply treat the patient’s medical issue. What they don’t do is help the patient compare treatment options or help the patient navigate the healthcare system in order to find the highest value care available within a patient’s healthcare plan.
In contrast, Virtual DPC doctors act as patient advocates and are accountable to employers for the health and healthcare expenditures of employees. Because of this accountability, the Virtual DPC doctor is incentivized to provide conservative, evidence-based patient care.
Virtual DPC physicians partner with employers to understand the health plan design and pharmacy benefits.
They work to ensure that bundled-price surgeries are used when the plan allows, that prescriptions are managed cost-effectively by looking into the pharmacy benefit manager’s formulary, and that specialist visits are more efficient or are avoided by utilizing an online specialist consult service that’s available only to physicians, potentially saving employers tens of thousands of dollars for a single employee.
3. Cost-saving chronic disease management is part of the Virtual DPC package.
Telemedicine doctors provide treatment advice and write prescriptions for a narrow list of acute conditions and symptoms that don’t meaningfully affect the dollar amount that an employer’s health plan spends; they don’t provide ongoing treatment for patients already diagnosed with a chronic disease—and effectively managing chronic diseases is one of the biggest returns on investment that Virtual DPC offers.
Take a patient like Lisa, who suffers from a lung condition called chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Lisa called her Virtual DPC doctor because she was having more difficulty than usual catching her breath. She wondered if she should go to the emergency room. Her Virtual DPC physician, who had treated Lisa’s condition for the past year, spoke with her at length and determined that a more precise and proper use of her current medication could reduce her breathlessness. He then monitored her virtually twice a day via text—at no additional charge to her or her employer—to make sure that her breathing was under control.
Thousands of dollars were saved in avoidable hospital, emergency room and specialist fees because the doctor who took care of this acute issue had both intimate knowledge of the patient’s history and the luxury of easy follow-up with the patient.
4. With Virtual DPC, comprehensive care is unlimited and prepaid.
The fact that there are no extra fees for Lisa’s highly personalized care is a direct result of the affordable DPC model. Regardless of whether the program an employer chooses is Virtual DPC or Full DPC (Full DPC includes in-office visits), unlimited contact with the doctor is prepaid at a set amount.
The comprehensive nature of the Virtual DPC relationship includes the doctor’s ability to order labs and imaging at locations that are close to the patient. Another advantage is that Virtual DPC doctors pass along their discounts on labs and imaging to the patient and employer.
5. Virtual DPC’s additional benefit of “Wellcare” gives you yet another way to protect your employees and your bottom line.
Comprehensive and cost-effective healthcare means treating the cause of a disease as well as its symptoms. If a patient calls in because of high blood pressure issues caused by obesity, a telemedicine doctor may only prescribe a medication to lower blood pressure.
In contrast, a Virtual DPC doctor can go a step further and design a personalized chronic disease management program to reduce costly medication and to prevent more expensive healthcare events in the future.
Considering that 22 percent of healthcare expenses are related to modifiable risk factors such as depression, high blood sugar, high blood pressure and obesity, Virtual DPC as a cost-savings strategy makes solid financial sense.
Virtual Direct Primary Care Can Save Your Company Money And Help Keep Employees Healthier.
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