UnitedHealthcare app gives members on-demand access to telehealth services
UnitedHealthcare launched a new app this week that enables its millions of members to access on-demand virtual doctor visits on their smartphones, computers and other devices.
WHY IT MATTERS
The app, which will over time replace the healthcare provider's Health4Me app, connects patients with doctors 24 hours a day for digital visits to diagnose non-emergency medical conditions like allergies, influenza, colds, pinkeye, fevers and rashes.
Physicians can also prescribe medications and send prescriptions to local pharmacies for pickup through the digital visits, which typically take 20 minutes for non-emergencies, according to UnitedHealthcare.
There are more than 27 million people enrolled in UnitedHealthcare health benefit plans that are eligible to use the app. Available for Apple and Android, it allows access to healthcare consumers to access their health plan ID card on their smartphone, review and manage prescriptions and view information on deductible and out-of-pocket spending.
It also helps users locate nearby physicians and hospitals through GPS technology, which the company says can help patients in need care when they are out of town.
UnitedHealthcare touts the app as a money-saver for patients who use it to avoid going to the emergency room, which the company says is more expensive than virtual visits, which generally cost about $50.
About 25% of emergency room visits involve conditions that could be addressed with a virtual visit; ER treatment for low-severity conditions costs an average $740, according to UnitedHealthcare.
THE LARGER TREND
UnitedHealthcare chief medical officer Anne Docimo said the new app is part of UnitedHealth Group's more than $3 billion annual investment into data, technology and innovation.
Implementing more virtual care solutions is a top priority for many employers, 51% of companies currently planning to do so according to a 2019 study by the National Business Group on Health.
That expansion of services is considered critical, according to UnitedHealthcare, for people with chronic conditions, as well as the 20% of the U.S. population that live in rural areas where healthcare is often lacking.
ON THE RECORD
"Digital health resources are fundamentally changing how people navigate the health system, making it possible to access care from anywhere at any time and helping remove barriers to care," said Docimo.
Max Sullivan is a freelance writer and reporter who, in addition to writing about healthcare, has covered business stories, municipal government, education and crime.
Healthcare IT News is a HIMSS Media publication.
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