When COVID-19 hit the United States, telehealth quickly became the frontline solution for medical care. Not only did it stem the flow of patients to emergency rooms, but it provided a safe option for accessing care without risking exposure to a highly contagious virus. Seven months later, telehealth has become an indispensable part of the nation’s healthcare system.

A new white paper from national telehealth provider MeMD shines a light on telehealth’s newest, and arguably most important, evolution: virtual primary care.

“The pandemic made it clear that virtual care is more than a stop-gap solution,” said MeMD CEO Bill Goodwin. “Utilization and popularity have skyrocketed, and consumers are demanding more virtual healthcare options. One obvious and necessary extension of telehealth is primary care.”

The white paper shares a wealth of medical research and expert insights into the role of virtual primary care post-COVID-19. Among the highlights:

• Rising healthcare costs continue to plague U.S. businesses and employees. Kaiser Family Foundation reports family premiums have increased 22% over the past five years and 55% over the past decade – significantly faster than workers’ wages or inflation.

• Even while demands on the U.S. healthcare system are increasing, a physician shortage is creating barriers to care. The American Association of Medical Colleges warns the nation could face a shortfall of 55,200 primary care physicians by 2032.

• This is problematic because primary care has long been associated with better health status and lower overall costs. New research shows every $1 invested in primary care yields $13 in savings in downstream costs.

• Primary care plays a critical role in managing the costs of chronic diseases, which account for 90% of the nation’s health spending and are the biggest healthcare cost drivers for businesses.

• Telehealth has emerged as a high-quality, cost-effective solution to the primary care crisis. Not only has utilization of telehealth skyrocketed – up 8,000% in April 2020 compared to April 2019 – but McKinsey and Company reports virtual primary care enables clinicians to improve care management of patients with chronic conditions while bending the cost curve down.

• It meets consumer demands, too: A new report shows 83% of patients plan to use virtual care post-pandemic, one of many indicators that convenience, flexibility and safety are increasing in importance.

• Even before the pandemic, businesses were seeking new ways to curb costs while meeting the needs of “on-demand” employees. The pandemic expedited this pivot in health benefit plan design and cleared the path for virtual primary care.

“The pandemic has modernized the way Americans access health services and cleared a path for virtual primary care,” said Nicholas Lorenzo, MD, chief medical officer, MeMD. “It’s well-understood that primary care providers play an important role in improving health while reducing costs, but they can only do that when people have access to care. The virtual option addresses the provider shortage while also delivering care when and how employees want it.”

Download the whitepaper here.

• Learn how businesses, health plans and other organizations can utilize virtual primary care to meet member needs and drive down overall healthcare costs.