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CVS Health Introduces Access to Direct-to-Consumer Telehealth Tool

The retailer will expand patient access to care through direct-to-consumer telehealth technology.

direct-to-consumer telehealth

Source: Thinkstock

By Sara Heath

- CVS Health is rolling out its own direct-to-consumer telehealth option associated with its MinuteClinic offerings. The 24-hours service will facilitate patient access to care for minor health issues, injuries, and dermatological concerns.

The service, named MinuteClinic Video Visits, will allow patients to access care from their own mobile devices, helping to supplement the convenient care access the retailer currently provides.

“We’re excited to be able to bring this innovative care option to patients,” Troyen A. Brennan, MD, Executive Vice President and Chief Medical Officer of CVS Health said in a statement. “At CVS Health, we’re committed to delivering high-quality care when and where our patients need it and at prices they can afford. Through this new telehealth offering, patients now have an additional option for seeking care that is even more convenient for them.”

CVS Health expects the direct-to-consumer telehealth option to improve patient satisfaction because of increased patient access to high-quality care in a convenient fashion. Preliminary test studies showed that 95 percent of patients who received telehealth care reported high satisfaction with the quality of the encounter.

The same preliminary study showed that 95 percent of patients were satisfied with the level of convenience telehealth provided.

CVS Health will be partnering with telehealth provider Teladoc to provide this service. Patients can access the direct-to-consumer telehealth platform via the CVS Pharmacy app. The visit will be customized to the patient and will reflect the care quality delivered during a traditional, in-person MinuteClinic visit, the retailer said.

Video visits will be available for patients ages two or older who are experiencing minor healthcare concerns such as minor illness, minor injury, or a skin condition. Patients must complete a health questionnaire and will then be matched with a provider within their state. Providers will review the questionnaire and other relevant health information before beginning the video visit.

In cases where the provider determines the patient should receive in-person care, she will refer the patient to a qualified healthcare professional in the patient’s area, including a MinuteClinic or the patient’s primary care provider.

Should the patient require a prescription treatment, the telehealth provider will submit an electronic prescription to the patient’s preferred pharmacy.

Each direct-to-consumer telehealth visit will cost $59. The service is currently available in Arizona, California, Florida, Idaho, Maine, Maryland, Mississippi, New Hampshire and Virginia – and Washington D.C. CVS expects the service to be available in all states, where permissible, by the end of 2018.

CVS Health has adopted this technology at a time when patients are increasingly interested in telehealth access, although there is some evidence of hesitation. A 2018 Software Advice survey found that 77 percent of patients are more likely to select a doctor who offers telehealth access than one who does not.

Patient respondents said the convenience factor was a high priority for telehealth access. Twenty-six percent of patients were interested in avoiding a trip to the clinic or office, while 25 percent wanted to access care in their own home and 20 percent wanted to access their care quickly.

However, evidence shows that patients are still partial to in-person care, especially for certain symptoms that could be indicative of a larger health issue. Ninety percent of patients said they’d rather visit their provider in-person for blurred vision and 78 percent said in-person visits were preferable for cuts, muscle injuries, or rashes.

Other hurdles to patient telehealth use could be uncertainty about plan coverage, the survey revealed. Two-thirds of respondents said they did not know whether virtual visits were covered by their insurance.

A separate survey from HealthMine showed similar results, with forty-six percent of Medicare Advantage patients saying they are unsure of whether their payer covered telehealth services.

As more organizations and retail clinics tap virtual care tools and telehealth to expand patient care access, it will be essential for them to make clear the expectations of the tool. This will ensure patients access the technology in a judicious and effective way.

Additionally, it will be incumbent upon payers to clarify benefits packages and the inclusion of telehealth services. Virtual care visits can present a low-cost way for patients to receive care for minor health needs. Payers should make clear if this option is available to their beneficiaries.

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