Businesses with Cigna-based self-insured health plans will soon have access to round-the-clock telehealth consultations through a deal announced this week with MDLive.
Randy Parker, founder, president and CEO of the Sunrise, Fla.-based telehealth company, said the partnership closes the loop for millions of employees around the country who need immediate access to healthcare that doesn't need to be delivered in a doctor's office, emergency room or urgent care clinic.
"The big problem we see in healthcare today is fragmentation," he said. "What we're doing is taking telehealth into the health plan design, making it a part of the product rather than a stand-alone product."
Cigna, based in Bloomfield, Conn., will begin offering the MDLive program in June to employers with self-insured health plans effective Jan. 1, 2014. The program connects health plan members at any time to board-certified internal medicine, family practice and pediatric physicians via telephone, e-mail or online video.
“We are committed to offering our customers services that help improve their health and make their lives easier – and MDLive represents anytime, anywhere access to quality care,” said Jackie Aube, head of product development at Cigna, in an April 23 press release. “MDLive’s telehealth services enable our increasingly mobile and time-constrained customers to schedule a virtual consult with a board-certified physician and resolve a non-emergency medical issue in less than one hour. It’s a cost-effective and convenient alternative to an office visit with your primary care physician.”
“As the leading telehealth provider in the nation, we are especially pleased to team with Cigna, one of the world’s pre-eminent health service companies,” Parker added in the press release. “We have a closely shared vision for bringing the best technology to bear on providing consumers with an experience never before seen in healthcare that focuses on each person as an individual, accessible where and when they want it, and in a confidential and convenient virtual environment. We are proud to work with Cigna and look forward to a relationship that will literally re-define how quality health care can be available to all, and on their own terms.”
In an interview earlier this week, Parker described the Cigna partnership as the latest in a growing business line for MDLive, one that will see the telehealth provider play a role in accountable care organizations and other integrated managed care networks.
He said the service appeals specifically to health plan members who need quick, concise treatment for non-emergency medical issues (such as cold and flu, rashes, sinus issues and headaches) and who don't want or need to schedule a doctor's appointment or visit the nearest hospital or clinic. The MDLive platform, he said, gives members that opportunity to connect with the company's network of some 2,300 physicians and ensure that the encounter is recorded and passed on to the member's primary care physician for follow-up and inclusion in the electronic medical record.
"We empower local healthcare," he said.
Cigna, a global company with a wide range of products and approximately 78 million customer relationships around the world, has been offering reimbursable "virtual house calls" with Cigna-certified physicians to members since 2007 on RelayHealth's webVisit platform. The MDLive partnership is seen as an enhancement to that offering, officials said, giving health plan members immediate access to healthcare services and compensating healthcare professionals for their services.
Parker said the MDLive platform currently reaches more than 2 million customers, and he expects that number to grow to 10 million by 2015.