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Mar 1, 2024
For virtual care, clinical connection is as important as convenience

Since 2020, more people have recognized the value and convenience of virtual care. So it is no surprise that new service options continue to pop up, with the latest choices including direct-to-consumer telehealth programs offered by retail stores and pharmacies.

“We know many people like the idea of convenient virtual care services when they need immediate advice about a minor health concern,” said Dr. Eric Weil, chief medical officer of MDLIVE. “However, direct-to-consumer virtual care visits have the potential to be disconnected from a person’s overall health journey.”

A more connected experience

Ideally, virtual care services should be covered by the individual’s health benefits plan to provide greater clinical support and affordability, Dr. Weil said.

“Suppose a person is having a virtual care session with a doctor and the topic of high blood pressure comes up,” he said. “In a typical direct-to-consumer model, the virtual doctor may recommend the person see a cardiologist, and that would be it. But when virtual care is tied to that person’s benefit plan, with access to that plan’s network of high-performing doctors and specialists, the virtual doctor would be able to share a list of quality cardiologists in the person’s area who are participating in the benefit plan. This saves the person a lot of time and legwork in seeking follow-up and ongoing care.”

Dr. Weil also noted that virtual care services covered by a benefit plan have no added subscription fees, and feature copays and deductible arrangements similar to or lower than those for in-person care. “That’s another advantage over direct-to-consumer virtual sessions, which typically do not accept insurance, meaning any amount paid would not go toward the patient’s benefit deductible,” he said.

Check with the health plan

Virtual Primary Care services from MDLIVE included in Cigna Healthcare plans offer this connected experience. In addition to on-demand and urgent virtual sessions for low-acuity medical conditions, MDLIVE offers virtual wellness screenings and primary care services to build trusting relationships with a medical team and help people better manage chronic conditions over time. Behavioral health and dermatology care are also available through MDLIVE, and asynchronous urgent care will be offered later this year. All virtual care services can be easily accessed by enrolled Cigna Healthcare customers through their dedicated benefit portal at myCigna.com.

Because everyone’s health journey is a continuous one, MDLIVE virtual care services can offer ongoing support by enabling patients to keep seeing the same virtual practitioner if they choose. “Patients can build a lasting longitudinal relationship with their virtual doctor, just as they would with an in-person doctor,” Dr. Weil said, adding that the virtual doctor can get to know the patient and the patient’s health and wellness needs over the long term. Patients who also maintain a primary care provider in a bricks-and-mortar practice can ask their MDLIVE practitioner to share information from their visits with that doctor as well as with any specialists that they see. This helps to maintain continuity of care.

“By bringing together convenient, accessible, and high-quality services for those Cigna Healthcare serves, MDLIVE’s virtual primary care, virtual urgent care, virtual dermatology, and virtual behavioral care deliver integrated services to support every step of each person’s health care journey,” Dr. Weil said. He added that roughly 250,000 Cigna Healthcare customers have benefit plans which include MDLIVE services with zero copayments. 

For those not enrolled in Cigna Healthcare benefits, Dr. Weil advises they check with their employer or health benefits provider to determine which virtual care services are available to them. “The virtual care provided by their benefit plan is likely to be as convenient as a direct-to-consumer session, and any level of connection to their benefit network and out-of-pocket expense arrangements would make it a better option in the long run,” he said.

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