Survey: Importance of virtual care to insurers is increasing

May 17, 2019

A survey of members of America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), the national trade association for insurers, shows that the importance of virtual care is increasing. The results indicate that virtual care is widely and readily available to most patients through their health plans.

A survey of members of America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), the national trade association for insurers, shows that the importance of virtual care is increasing. The results indicate that virtual care is widely and readily available to most patients through their health plans-with 94 percent of private payers and 92 percent of Medicare Advantage plans offering virtual care. Similarly, 93 percent of Medicaid managed care plans either currently offer or are considering offering such services.

Payers are increasingly offering virtual services not only to provide convenience, but to enable providers to manage care for specific patient populations, such as complex chronic care patients, rural patients, or those with mobility issues.

Plans reported that these virtual care programs can be used for a variety of conditions and services, with non-emergency care and behavioral health being among the most common types of care that respondents reported can be handled virtually.

Improving health outcomes, making care more convenient, and increasing access to high-quality care for patients are key drivers for the adoption of virtual care across all payers. Insurance providers also noted that the ability to offer modern, innovative health benefits were high priorities when implementing virtual care options.

However, some challenges remain to fully implementing virtual care. Patient engagement, technical execution, and regulations were all noted as key obstacles. Both commercial (87 percent) and Medicaid managed care plans (91 percent) reported that engaging patients  was a key challenge toward full adoption and integration of these programs. Medicare Advantage plans identified implementing the plans’ virtual care strategy (88 percent) and a regulatory landscape not conducive to offering virtual care services as a basic benefit (70 percent) as key barriers.
All insurance providers, across a variety of plans, reported the benefits of virtual care were wide-ranging-including increased access, improved health outcomes, increased patient satisfaction, and more coordinated care management.

AHIP stated in a press release that virtual care has emerged as a new platform that improves access by removing traditional barriers to healthcare, such as distance, mobility, and time constraints. For certain conditions, virtual care is as effective as in-person visits with potential for cost savings, benefits to provider efficiency, and better management of chronic conditions.

Health insurance providers recognize the value of virtual care for patients, including augmenting access, driving down costs, and making care more convenient. Addressing challenges, such as patient engagement and the regulatory landscape, will be critical to maximizing the potential for virtual care as it is increasingly integrated into care delivery, according to AHIP.