No more getting out of bed when your nose is running, your face is burning and you can barely sit on your own two feet, and no more sitting in a crowded waiting room for hours on end. UnitedHealthcare, the country’s largest health insurance carrier, is now covering telemedicine services.
This past Thursday, the company began to offer about a million of their subscribers insurance coverage for telemedicine. What this means is that patients can video chat with doctors on smartphones, tablets and home computers, explain their symptoms and receive a clinical diagnosis from medical professionals.
So far the offer is only available to UnitedHealthcare’s self-funded customers, however you can expect it to extend to most members by the beginning of next year.
The company’s deal currently includes doctor visits offered by telemedicine companies Doctor on Demand, NowClinic and American Well, each of them providing patients with thousands of doctors.
Such a session typically saves people a lot of time and costs between 40$ and 50$, but now interested parties will only have to pay their usual co-pay, making telemedicine much more affordable than it used to be.
Adam Jackson, co-founder and CEO of Doctor on Demand, said that the company “couldn’t be more honored that UnitedHealthcare has chosen Doctor On Demand as one of their first virtual visit providers […] We built Doctor On Demand to provide the easiest, most convenient access to some of the best physicians in the country. In partnership with UnitedHealthcare, we can now help even more Americans get the care they need. Starting immediately, we’ll be offering our No PEPM, utilization-only model and highly-rated service to key UnitedHealthcare commercial customers”.
Both Jackson and Karen Scott, director of innovation initiatives at UnitedHealthcare, hope new members will use the app to treat sinus infections, skin rashes, pinkeye, colds, unsettling coughs and other minor health issues that if ignored could worsen, but that they will still go to the hospital for emergency situations and chronic conditions.
Jackson went on to say that if a patient reports their condition is persisting or worsening, Doctor on Demand will refer them to an in-person physician.
The partnerships is very well received by industry specialists as Peter Mueller, a healthcare industry analyst at Forrester, believes that the insurer’s giant embrace of virtual medicine is a major step forward for the healthcare industry: “There are a lot of pros to telemedicine. Convenience is one. Access is another. Then there’s the immediacy of it, too”.
People who’ve experienced the benefits first hand agree with Mueller. Eric Neiman explains: “So I’d gotten a text from my wife earlier in the day […] One of our daughter’s eyes was a little bit red and she was rubbing it”. The parents thought it was pinkeye and agreed to look at it together when Neiman got home. Unfortunately that happened to be at about 8 p.m., much too late to catch their regular pediatrician and pretty late to go see any doctor.
Neiman than remembered seeing an online post about an app called Doctor on Demand. He logged in, “the pediatrician came on, introduced himself, and then asked to see our daughter, asked to hold the iPhone up to her eye, checked her throat, everything that he could see via the phone” Neiman said.
In just a few short minutes the doctor called in a prescription for pinkeye and Neiman was so impressed by the services that he used the app for himself a few days later.
UnitedHealthcare released a statement saying that their goal was to give people access to affordable quality healthcare, and that they were worried about people in rural areas in particular.
Image Source: doctorondemand.com