Virtual Care is Evolving into 2023

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Virtual care has been a favored service among many healthcare consumers as its users have shared they want more out of it, according to a 2022 Virtual Care Survey Report by Summus.

Virtual care has been a favored service among many healthcare consumers as its users have shared they want more out of it, according to a 2022 Virtual Care Survey Report by Summus.

The demand has increased for its use at a time where healthcare costs are expected to rise 6% this year, up from 5% in 2022, the report said. These rising costs are due to clinical staffing shortages and ongoing supply chain disruptions, creating additional barriers to access to high-quality care across the country.

Rising costs are urging employers to explore new strategies and solutions that reduce costs while also supporting sustainable, people-first benefits that deliver wellbeing and long-term health, productivity and retention. Specialty care is where the cost and complexity live in healthcare today.

Virtual care consumers can find that virtual specialty care offers a more effective approach to specialized care that provides faster access and answers while reducing cost and administrative burdens on payers and employers.

These benefits under virtual specialty care seem to fit the needs under consumers because respondents of the survey shared their desire for access to specialists with more experience in their medical condition (61%), suggesting the need for more personalized care.

In addition, more than half of the respondents prefer virtual care options that offer fast access (60%) and additional quality time with leading doctors in their field (57%).

Participants of the survey included 730 U.S. adults, 18 years of age and older, and who are an accurate representation of U.S. healthcare consumers. Survey data indicated that virtual care appointments are most common among younger populations (Gen Z); Black, Indigenous, and people of color.

Summus CEO and Founder, Julian Flannery, made additional comments to survey findings and said that regardless of age, gender, region, and other sociodemographic factors, the majority of consumers surveyed (66%) reported seeing a specialist more than once, and 87% noted being satisfied meeting virtually with their specialist.

"These are powerful findings that reinforce the demand for virtual specialty care given its accelerated access to the best of the best in medicine, especially in the moments that matter in healthcare," Flannery said. "Summus delivers access to high quality medical expertise, giving people confidence that they have a plan for their care."

He added Summus is transforming access to specialty care as the clinical front door to healthcare, working to provide more time and human connection to discuss health concerns and personalized care plans while driving better, more cost effective outcomes.

There is more to look forward to among virtual care, according to Flannery.

The team at Summus sees the following four trends continuing through 2023 and into 2024:

  • Increased need for personalized healthcare experiences. With continued remote and hybrid work environments, a lack of social connectedness as a society, and heightened pressure in urgent and primary care, many people feel alone and abandoned as they try to pursue healthcare solutions. Consumers will demand a personalized experience that reaches them where they are and helps them access and navigate healthcare in a more effective, human way.
  • Peer-to-peer solutions to support patient care will emerge strongly. With billions invested in primary care models, there will be the fundamental question of how to increase and optimize access to specialty care. Asynchronous and synchronous communication between PCPs and specialists will become the norm to alleviate costly referrals and long wait times for in person visits.
  • Cancer will supersede MSK as the highest focus area. Rising costs associated with an increase in cancer diagnoses and ongoing employee burnout and turnover will drive HR leaders to identify solutions aimed at cancer prevention as well as those with an emphasis on health equity.
  • Greater focus on ROI tied to employer solutions. Given economic pressures, employers and health plans will demand proof of outcomes and a return on investment for programs. Additionally, there will be increased scrutiny on how solutions directly attribute their impact on cost and outcomes. Finally, employers will consolidate solutions that may have overlap or low utilization.

"Virtual care has evolved rapidly from primary and urgent care into the world of specialized care," Flannery said. "Solutions that will succeed will do more than just put a screen between doctors and patients. Although a myriad of solutions exist in the employer and health plan markets, virtual solutions that address the full spectrum of health conditions and concerns will support consolidation of narrowly focused point solutions."

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