UnitedHealthcare expands virtual visit coverage

UnitedHealthcare is partnering with Doctor On Demand, American Well and Optum to expand virtual healthcare services to a network of care physicians who will be reachable 24/7 via mobile devices and tablets.

The program will be available to self-funded employer clients this year and to individual and employer-sponsored customers next year, according to an announcement. The effort is part of UnitedHealthcare's strategy to develop telemedicine services in rural areas and for consumers needing care at home or on the road.

"Consumers can save time and money choosing among quality physician groups from the convenience of their smartphone, tablet or home computer at any time of the day," Jeff Alter, CEO of UnitedHealthcare's Commercial Group business, said.

Mobile technology is increasingly helping providers and payers save on costs and offering consumers and patients more efficient and faster treatment options. For example, Independence Blue Cross is offering members a free self-management app for chronic health issues. And in February, Cigna-HealthSpring announced it was teaming with Telcare to provide remote monitoring and care engagement services to diabetes patients in the Texas Medicaid STAR+PLUS program.

For the UnitedHealthcare virtual care program, participants use the provider's Health4Me app, Optum's NowClinic solution and American Well's Amwell technology to contact physicians for a video or audio visit, which costs less than $50, for diagnosis on non-life threatening issues ranging from colds and allergies to bladder infections and bronchitis. The virtual option is available to participants in 47 states and the District of Columbia.

American Well, on Monday, unveiled its Telehealth 2.0 program, a mobile app that targets patients with chronic conditions, allowing physicians to reach their customers at home.

For more information:
- read the announcement

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