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Optum now offering virtual care nationwide, execs say

UnitedHealth subsidiary Optum has launched a new virtual care product. OptumHealth’s CEO says the software, Optum Virtual Care, is now live in all 50 states.  

According to a transcript of an April 15 earnings call, executives from both UnitedHealth and Optum said the software aims to integrate physical care, telehealth, home care and behavioral care.  

“We were very proud of how quickly we stood up over 17,000 providers during the pandemic on telehealth solutions, but that really is just … the beginning,” said OptumHealth CEO Wyatt Decker on the call.  

“What will really differentiate our product to those that we serve is the ability to offer virtual solutions,” he said.

“But then, if necessary, immediately connect them to a live bricks-and-mortar solution … for more complex or thorough care, as well as identifying and triaging both physical and behavioral healthcare needs and offering comprehensive behavioral healthcare,” continued Decker.

WHY IT MATTERS  

On the call Thursday, executives signaled their optimism about virtual care’s sustainability despite declines in use from the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic.  

“We’ve obviously seen telehealth develop as a set of capabilities over the last several years,” said Andrew Witty, UnitedHealth Group CEO. “We’ve been a very extensive user of those capabilities.”   

Witty forecasted a number of new telehealth initiatives in deployment between Optum and UnitedHealth, emphasizing the integrated nature of the platforms.  

“I think one of the things we’ve seen from 2020 and the pandemic is really a kind of shift in terms of people’s thinking and willingness to utilize telehealth,” Witty added. “We also think that the ways in which they’re being utilized are evolving.”  

Rather than a replacement for in-person care, leaders stressed telehealth’s complementary potential.   

“The feedback is really extraordinary in terms of how patients are seeing this, the benefit they feel from it, and the ease with which they’re able to engage with it,” said Witty.  

Executives did not offer many details about the product itself, but a video posted to Optum’s website outlines how many Optum doctors have been able to provide virtual care via synchronous video visits through smartphone, tablet or laptop.  

“Sometimes the safest place to be is in your own home,” says the video.  

THE LARGER TREND  

The news about Optum comes on the heels of Amazon’s official announcement that it will soon make its own telehealth offering available in all 50 states as well.  

Telehealth regulations – and the uncertainty surrounding them – mean that offering virtual care throughout the entire country could present a more complicated task than doing so in select markets.  

Still, the moves suggest that major companies are confident in telehealth’s longevity – and individual state laws have generally supported virtual care (and reimbursement parity for it) as well.  

ON THE RECORD  

“We’re seeing continued sustainability of virtual care solutions which, as you may know, peaked during the height of the pandemic, have declined some, but are still probably 10 times where they were pre-pandemic,” said Decker.   

“So we’re very excited about where we can take this off,” he added.

Kat Jercich is senior editor of Healthcare IT News.
Twitter: @kjercich
Email: [email protected]
Healthcare IT News is a HIMSS Media publication.

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