Looking towards the primary care space, yesterday Doctor on Demand and insurer Humana, launched a new virtual care model called, On Hand. Members and employers are able to opt into this new plan, which will let patients access an in-network primary care doctor with no copay. Users will also have access to urgent care providers and behavioral health clinicians.
“By partnering with Doctor On Demand, Humana is leading the market with a modern approach to meeting the health plan needs of employers and employees,” Chris Hunter, Humana’s Group & Military segment president, said in a statement. “Through virtual care delivery, On Hand gives employers the opportunity to affordably offer healthcare benefits to employees without sacrificing comprehensive, quality care.”
The new plan is marketed as lower-premium alternative to traditional insurance. Virtual visits are free, and there is a $5 copay for common tests and prescriptions. The service also comes with wellness visits to track patient health and a standard medical device kit.
WHY IT MATTERS
Healthcare costs continue to rise in the US, reaching $3.5 trillion or $10,739 per person in 2017, according to CMS.gov. These costs have put a significant amount of burden on both the payers and patients—and this can impact care.
A recent study from JP Morgan Chase Institute found consumers are delaying out-of-pocket health spending until they have an influx of cash. Their study indicated that consumers increase their out-of-pocket healthcare spending by 60 percent the week after getting a tax refund. This could suggest that people are putting off needed care, Chex Yu, a research associate at JP Morgan Chase Institute, said at HIMSS.
The new tool is being pitched as a way to keep down premiums and cut out copays.
This isn’t the first example of a virtual care model has uprooted the traditional primary care structure.
A few years ago the UK government teamed up with digital health company Babylon to launch, NHS GP at Hand service. The service lets patients see a practitioner through the app once they have switched from their current GP. According to the website, the service is available for people living or working within 40 minutes of one of their clinics. If needed a patient can see a physician in person. Currently there are five clinics all within Greater London.
ON THE RECORD
“By offering full mind and body care through our expanded clinical care team and fully-integrated technology platform, we’re putting the patient first and introducing continuity of care not previously available through virtual care solutions,” Hill Ferguson, CEO of Doctor On Demand, said in a statement. “We’re thrilled to partner with Humana to offer this new health plan, one that improves access to high-quality care while reducing overall healthcare costs to the consumer and the health plan alike.”