Over the past few years, telemedicine has been increasingly popular for providing remote medical treatment, increasing its market share. The advantages of telemedicine that make it a workable substitute for in-office doctor visits are convenience, accessibility, and price.
Even with all of the benefits, however, telemedicine's overall usefulness has come under question because of its restricted field of use, lack of continuity of treatment, and low usage rate (only 3-7% of employees use their employer's telemedicine program on average).
Virtual Direct Primary Care stands out in areas where standard telemedicine falls short, and Virtual DPC can potentially save patients the same 20–30% on healthcare costs that direct primary care has.
Traditional telemedicine is not virtual direct primary care
Virtual direct primary care offers its services via phone, app, email, and video conferencing, just like telemedicine. Virtual direct primary care, as compared to telemedicine, provides a wide range of primary care services that are comparable to what you would receive from a face-to-face appointment with a typical primary care doctor.
With virtual primary care, patients can make appointments with the same doctor.
A patient can develop a relationship with a primary-care doctor through virtual primary care. The virtual primary care doctor of the patient's choice can be seen, and subsequent appointments can be made with that physician.
In contrast, patients receive unplanned visits from a different provider every time in traditional telemedicine. There is no consistency and no connection is made.
Chronic and preventive treatment is available through virtual primary care visits.
A patient can see a doctor for chronic illnesses including diabetes, hypertension, and high cholesterol through virtual primary care. A patient's blood must be extracted in person for lab tests that are frequently necessary for the diagnosis and treatment of chronic diseases.
More than 4,000 independent labs around the nation are available for virtual primary care providers to place blood test orders. There is no need for a hardcopy lab form because the order is transmitted electronically. The virtual primary care physician's electronic medical record system receives the test results automatically, enabling him to contact the patient, go over the findings, and make any required treatment arrangements.
Traditional telemedicine cannot provide chronic care and preventive care because it does not order lab testing.
The primary causes of high-cost claims decline as a result of virtual primary care
5% of a group's members are responsible for 50% of its healthcare costs. Similar to this, 20% of a group's members are responsible for 80% of its healthcare costs. These members often spend $50,000–$100,000 annually on medical expenses. The three diagnostic groups that account for the majority of their medical expenses are cancer, cardiovascular illness, and musculoskeletal diseases.
With primary care, these excessive healthcare expenses can be reduced or even completely eliminated. According to a research published in the Journal of Family Practice, the cost of healthcare was 33% cheaper for patients who saw a primary care doctor frequently.
Primary care physicians treat diabetes, hypertension, and high cholesterol to lower the risk of heart disease as well as osteoarthritis to avoid major orthopedic procedures. In order to identify cancer types early and even eliminate precancerous tumors, they also organize cancer tests including mammograms and colonoscopies.
These causes of high-cost claims are not addressed by conventional telemedicine.
Care coordination is provided by virtual primary care
When necessary, virtual primary care physicians recommend patients to specialized care. The virtual primary care physician might recommend a patient to a dermatologist, for instance, if they have an atypical mole that may need to be biopsied. Prior to making a referral, a specialist will be evaluated for cost, quality, insurance network participation, patient-friendly location, and impending appointment availability. Additionally, to decide on the clinical course of action, whether any medications were ordered, and the next steps, virtual primary care practices speak with the specialist's office. Care coordination and specialist communication are not handled by conventional telemedicine.
Doctors are able to advise patients on behavior change through virtual primary care
With virtual primary care, the doctor and patient can meet on a regular basis to discuss lifestyle issues and decisions that might be harmful to the patient's health. For instance, a combination of behavior modification and frequent medicine is needed to manage disorders including obesity, diabetes, hypertension, and high cholesterol.
A doctor's behavioral counseling can be quite effective. Patients undergoing behavioral therapy "lost more than 8% of body weight during the first year and, at year 8, 50% of patients sustained a 5% or greater decrease," according to a research in the Mayo Clinic review. Over several appointments, the patient receives behavioral counseling from a clinician who gets to know them.
Continuous behavioral counseling with the same doctor is not available through traditional telemedicine.
Compared to conventional telemedicine, virtual primary care provides a wider range of services that are good for patient health and less expensive for the healthcare system.
Advantages of Virtual DPC vs. Telemedicine
1. One benefit of a virtual DPC over telemedicine is that patients can see their primary care physician rather than "a" doctor.
In telemedicine, a patient contacts a bank of doctors who are all anonymous, and the doctor who is next in line evaluates the patient by asking a series of questions. The doctor then makes a recommendation or prescribes a course of action. The patient's designated primary care physician receives the data gathered during the remote session, but when they call back the next time, they will speak with a different physician and the getting-to-know-you process will start all over again.
With Virtual DPC, a patient can always connect with the same primary care doctor—their own Direct Primary Care doctor—who is aware of and has access to the patient's whole medical history as well as his or her specific health issues.
2. Virtual DPC doctors try to cut back on excessive spending.
Doctors who practice telemedicine only address the patient's health problem. They don't assist the patient in comparing available treatment alternatives or in navigating the healthcare system to obtain the best value care that is covered by their healthcare plan.
In contrast, virtual DPC physicians represent patients' interests and are answerable to employers for the well-being and medical costs of their staff. The Virtual DPC doctor is motivated to give patients conservative, evidence-based care as a result of this accountability.