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Virtual Health Visits Can Help Increase Access to Care

by Jacques Boschung, President & General Manager, Payer Business, on April 26, 2021
Jacques Boschung, President & General Manager, Payer Business

The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated adoption of telehealth and pushed us to collectively revisit its potential and effectiveness as a care modality integral to modern healthcare delivery. At a time when the US public health infrastructure (rightfully) urged social distancing, telehealth enabled continuity of care and provided a safe, patient-centered, efficient, alternative to in-office visits.

Even as COVID-19 vaccines have been rolled out and in-person visits have resumed, the value proposition for telehealth remains strong. It is a flexible, scalable care modality that can expand access to services, reach to traditionally underserved populations, and provide opportunities for personalized member engagement. In this regard, telehealth has expanded capacity for getting to greater value in healthcare for all stakeholders and for addressing the myriad of factors that are obstacles to regular access to care and services1. A closer look at some of the characteristics that underserved populations can share underscores the interconnectedness of access to services, health, and health disparities2:

  • High risk of multiple health problems and/or pre-existing conditions
  • Economically disadvantaged
  • Lack of trust in healthcare institutions/hesitancy to disclose sensitive information
  • Racial/ethnic minority
  • Lack of access to transportation services
  • Receive fewer healthcare services
  • Have difficulty accessing primary or a usual source of care
  • Face a shortage of readily available healthcare providers

This closer look also highlights the potential role of telehealth in helping to address these obstacles.  The COVID-19 pandemic allowed us all to see more clearly how telehealth could be leveraged to expand access, reach, and engagement. But we also learned that simply having this option is insufficient to meaningfully expand access to care and services. A J.D. Power study reported that 52% of users encountered at least one barrier that made it difficult to use telehealth3. As we look ahead, the opportunity and challenge before us is to evolve the telehealth approach to effectively reach more people, personalize service to substantively address whole-person needs, and to more equitably impact health, experience, and outcomes for all populations.

Data-informed, personalized engagement and outreach will be key to ensuring that members have access to – the right care, at the right time, through the right modality and that they feel seen, heard, listened to, and proactively supported. Programs such as Inovalon’s Virtual Health Visits (VHV) offer telehealth as an option for when access to such care is not convenient or, available.  Members schedule a VHV during a time that is most suitable for them. Certified Nurse Practitioners meet with members for an average of 35 minutes, where they engage meaningfully to understand needs and to identify, document, and address gaps in care. For members that want to participate in a Virtual Health Visit but lack the appropriate technology, Device on Demand offering eliminates the technology barrier by shipping a web-enabled device ─ directly to a member for participation in a Virtual Health Visit. Members have responded to this data informed, personalized approach to telehealth with overwhelming satisfaction, reporting a post-visit a satisfaction rate of 96% as compared to 86% reported in a J.D. Power study of telehealth satisfaction4.

At Inovalon, we recognize that telehealth has the potential to be a powerful vehicle for expanding access to services and in so doing, addressing health disparities experienced by underserved populations. But, without insights from data and a personalized, member-driven approach to engagement and outreach, its potential impact on health, experience, and outcomes will be limited. To learn more about Virtual Health Visits and our comprehensive approach to telehealth, go to the Virtual Health Visits page.

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1 Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) characterizes underserved, vulnerable, and special needs populations as communities that include members of minority populations or individuals who have experienced health disparities.
2 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. National Health Statistics Reports. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/products/nhsr.htm. Accessed April 20, 2021.
3 J.D. Power. 2020. Telehealth Patient Satisfaction Surges During Pandemic but Barriers to Access Persist, J.D. Power Finds. https://www.jdpower.com/sites/default/files/file/2020-09/2020124%20U.S.%20Telehealth%20Study%20v2.pdf.
4 J.D. Power. 2020. Telehealth Patient Satisfaction Surges During Pandemic but Barriers to Access Persist, J.D. Power Finds. https://www.jdpower.com/sites/default/files/file/2020-09/2020124%20U.S.%20Telehealth%20Study%20v2.pdf.
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