Contrary to expectations medical offices and clinics were not overwhelmed with worried patients. Medical facilities quickly organized their office visit procedures, including personal protective equipment, careful scheduling, the use of text messaging to patients indicating when they could enter the office. Reception areas were emptied using the new format.
Online portals, and telemedicine removed the necessity for face-to-face visits unless absolutely necessary. Most practices that had adopted EHR in the past ten years were in good position to make a rapid pivot to the new norm.
CMS and private plans quickly began to reimburse for telehealth as well. Although this may have increased reimbursements, the offsets for better care, and perhaps sicker patients more than offset this expense. No facts have been released by insurers as yet.
The move deeper into virtual care could have ramifications for smaller telehealth companies given the access to capital Optum has to expand and given UnitedHealth’s status as the nation’s largest health insurer and as a massive provider of medical care. On Monday, UnitedHealth rival Cigna’s Evernorth healthcare services business took a bigger step in the telehealth arena by closing on its acquisition of MDLive.
“Walmart has had a slow roll out of physical clinics compared to other retail storefronts; they needed a partner to achieve national presence with their healthcare strategy,” Forrester Principal Analyst Arielle Trzcinski wrote in an email. “Without a comprehensive primary care and chronic care delivery model that met consumers in their homes, they would struggle to gain market share against others like Amazon Care that focus on convenience, as well as cost.”
Scottsdale, Ariz.-based MeMD was founded in 2010 by an ER physician, and offers virtual urgent care and behavioral health services. Currently, MeMD’s visits are priced at $65 for an urgent care visit and $230 for a psychiatry visit, according to its website.