Primary care is becoming increasingly virtual. What does this mean for health care?

Health care is a huge puzzle. A big part of this complex puzzle is primary care, at scale identifier As “health services covering a range of prevention, wellness and treatment of common diseases”. This care is generally created by developing long-term relationships with the primary care provider (PCP), who can longitudinally monitor a patient’s health over time, advising the patient toward specialists as needed.

But the primary care landscape has changed dramatically, with its newest frontier involving virtual services. As primary care often entails routine health checkups, follow-up care, and more longitudinal medicine, health care providers, payers, and assistive technology companies are devising new ways to deliver this much-needed aspect of medicine.

The latest company to work on this is CVS Health, which announced last week that it will launch a A comprehensive virtual primary care solution. The company’s goal is to make care more accessible, by giving “members access to primary care, on-demand care, chronic condition management, and virtually mental health services, with the option to appear in person when needed at the service provider’s network, including MinuteClinic.” Creagh Milford, DO, Vice President of Enterprise Virtual Care at the company: “We meet people wherever they are on the healthcare journey and provide care that is more convenient and more accessible. […] By offering a connected care team where providers can easily share clinical information on behalf of their patients, and a broad local footprint for personalized follow-up care, we can deliver consistent, high-quality care. This model shifts from reactive care to proactive care that can ultimately improve outcomes and help lower costs.”

However, CVS Health is certainly not the only organization seeing a value proposition for this area. It joins many other household names who are equally interested in entering the virtual care arena. One of the most notable recent projects was Amazon Care platformwhich aims to “help manage primary care and preventative health concerns.” […and…] promote[s] Health and wellness through disease prevention and assistance[s] Managing long-term medical conditions.” Traditional healthcare entities are also entering this race. Take for example Baylor Scott & White, which is one of the largest hospital systems in the country; the system will now offer virtual visits 24/7, connecting patients with their on-demand healthcare provider.

But why the sudden attraction to virtual care?

One of the main reasons is the new focus and respect digital health solutions. Consumers across the country (and around the world) are increasingly prioritizing ease, convenience, and speed. Often this means that if they can receive similar care at home via a computer screen as if they were driving to the clinic, they are willing to pay an extra fee for it. Moreover, for many Americans, this solution is a necessity rather than a convenience. A large portion of the American population does not have easy access to primary care, whether it’s because a lack of primary care has made so few doctors in their geographic area, or the fact that waiting times for an appointment can often stretch into months in many cities.

For many, virtual care is a welcome change that gives them access to immediate care. Finally, technological innovation has made this concept possible. It wasn’t long ago that the majority of families had to rely on the slow and cumbersome dial-up internet. Now, with the advent of high-speed broadband and fiber-optic Internet access, it is possible to envision complex Internet use cases such as broadcasting a virtual visit with your doctor.

Undoubtedly, as virtual primary care continues to expand its horizons relentlessly, it will be useful to understand and watch its significant impact on the American health care system in the years to come.

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