Humana, Doctor On Demand launch virtual primary care health plan

Humana is teaming up with telehealth company Doctor On Demand to launch a new virtual primary care model.

Called On Hand, the plan gives patients access to a dedicated primary care physician as well as access to preventive care, urgent care and behavioral health through video visits with lower monthly premiums.

The virtual health plan is designed to meet the needs of employers and employees, said Chris Hunter, Humana’s group and military segment president, and centers on comprehensive virtual primary care. “Through virtual care delivery, On Hand gives employers the opportunity to affordably offer healthcare benefits to employees without sacrificing comprehensive, quality care,” Hunter said in a statement.

The new plan design represents a “paradigm shift” in healthcare where patients will have access to comprehensive care from doctors without having to visit a doctor’s office and at significantly lower monthly premiums, according to Humana.

The virtual primary care health plan is the first to use the telehealth company’s Synapse platform, which rolled out in February. That platform update enables Doctor On Demand’s payer and employer customers to more easily link their existing provider networks with the telehealth company’s personal medical group, which was expanded to include nurse practitioners, pharmacists, dietitians and care coordinators.

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On Hand will begin rolling out to Humana members beginning in June.

Employers and members who elect On Hand as their primary care plan will gain access to a range of in-network virtual care services, as well as an expanded clinical care team to help navigate the healthcare system. 

Patients will have no copay for virtual doctor visits using Doctor On Demand and a $5 copay for common labs and prescriptions. As part of the plan, patients also receive a medical device kit with a digital blood pressure cuff, thermometer and log.

“By offering full mind and body care through our expanded clinical care team and fully integrated technology platform, we’re putting the patient first and introducing continuity of care not previously available through virtual care solutions,” Hill Ferguson, Doctor On Demand CEO, said in a statement.

The collaboration on a virtual primary care plan comes as the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) and commercial payers emphasize primary care.

On April 22, CMS announced several new primary care payment models, including one that would shift providers to global payments. Called the Primary Cares initiative, the aim is to push primary care providers to take on more risk, officials said. Primary Cares includes two tracks—Primary Care First and Direct Contracting—that will offer providers varied degrees of risk-sharing to encourage population-based primary care. 

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The partnership also coincides with strong growth in physician adoption of telehealth. About one in five physicians currently uses telehealth to care for patients—up from about 5% in 2015—and that figure is expected to soar within the next few years, according to a survey from American Well.

Humana’s partnership with Doctor On Demand is another example of healthcare organizations taking innovative approaches to rein in healthcare costs, according to Josh Berlin, principal and co-leader of consulting firm Citrin Cooperman’s healthcare practice.

“Humana has a deep footprint and this is a payer looking to create a virtual primary care network as a way to contain cost and thinking about how care is coordinated and delivered," said Berlin, who was speaking at a healthcare conference in New York City Thursday.

CVS Health also has piloted health-focused concept stores, called Health Hubs, as part of its acquisition of health insurer Aetna and in line with a strategy to reduce healthcare costs, Berlin noted. The pilot stores include services to help customer manage chronic conditions with expanded health clinics, labs for blood testing and wellness rooms.