The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has accelerated the use and development of virtual care, which has helped ensure continued and safe access to care for both individuals and healthcare professionals. In the U.S., where most employers offered telemedicine services already, consumer use of virtual consultations with physicians grew by more than 400% (from 11% in 2019 to 46% in April 2020).¹ Although it has declined somewhat since its peak in April, virtual visit usage remains substantially higher than pre-pandemic levels.²
Virtual care, however, goes beyond just telephone or video consultations with a physician and includes a wide range of services and technologies, such as digital remote monitoring tools that allow individuals’ active involvement in their care and artificial intelligence (AI) and digital self-management tools that can assist or replace healthcare professionals.
Our experience during COVID-19 provides multiple examples of how virtual care can help expand access to care, improve health outcomes and manage costs.
Aon estimates that virtual care has the potential to decrease healthcare costs up to 15% by:
- Directly reducing the cost of delivering healthcare services;
- Improving clinical decision-making;
- Expanding self-care and self-management by individuals; and
- Navigating individuals to the most cost-effective providers and treatments.
These benefits and this momentum will only accelerate, driven by multiple forces at play in healthcare: continued increases in demand for and costs of care, the greater convenience virtual care offers, the removal and suspension of legislative barriers and a growing shortfall in access to physicians.
The increase in adoption of virtual care by individuals and healthcare professionals that has begun during COVID-19 can also serve as the jumping off point for a transformational shift from individual virtual care solutions to new models that fully integrate virtual care technologies and services with in-person care. When combined with aligned financial incentives for individuals, healthcare providers, payers and plan sponsors, these offer true transformative power.
Such emerging virtual-directed integrated healthcare models have the promise to more fully align care delivery to reduce cost and improve outcomes by:
- Integrating virtual and in-person care;
- Improving the efficiency and effectiveness of care;
- Enabling a virtual primary care “front door” to navigate individuals to the most appropriate, cost-effective providers, services and treatments;
- Engaging individuals more completely in managing their health; and
- Aligning financial incentives to the effective management of the overall cost of care.
Governments, payers and medical plan sponsors have an opportunity to capture this potential by adopting integrated virtual care models and using them to reshape the design of their health insurance plans.
In doing so, they can help shape the future of healthcare. Read the full article above.
1Bestsennyy O, Gilbert G, Harris, A, & Rost, J. (May 29,2020). McKinsey Insights, Healthcare Systems and Services. Telehealth: A quarter-trillion-dollar post COVID 19 reality.
2Mehrotra A, Chernew M, Linetsky D, Hatch H, & Cutler D. (June 25, 2020). The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on outpatient visits: Practices are adapting to the new normal. The Commonwealth Fund.