Helping to connect to virtual primary care from the comfort of your home

For many people, a primary care provider (PCP) may be your go-to source for health questions and concerns. It’s the health care professional who usually knows you best, who is often more familiar with your health history and who may be your first point of contact for medical issues. Oftentimes, they are the ones who provide advice on your future medical needs and help you identify ways to maintain or improve your health.

If you are among the group of people who don’t already have an existing relationship with a PCP, the emergence of virtual primary care may be a good option. This service, included with many UnitedHealthcare plans, may offer the convenience and simplicity to connect with a virtual primary care provider from the comfort of your home by using a smartphone, tablet or personal computer.

You can establish an on-going relationship with the same care provider virtually who can then help with disease prevention and, if needed, addressing the ongoing management of chronic conditions such as high blood pressure, as well as help to streamline referrals to a network specialist for in-person care when needed.

Plus, a study concluded that people with a relationship with a primary care provider are more likely to receive high-value care services, such as cancer screenings, and report better care access and experiences compared to people without a PCP.  

Separately, some health plans and care providers are making it possible to “see” your own local care provider for acute and follow-up care. This may be a good option if you already have a primary care provider, helping you maintain the relationship you’ve built over the years, along with added convenience.

As with a traditional primary care visit, a virtual primary care provider may address the following:

  • Regular follow-ups and checkups for ongoing conditions like asthma, high blood pressure, diabetes and more
  • Specific health needs and helping close gaps in care
  • Patient-specific treatment plan and goals
  • Guide, when needed, to in-person care such as labs, imaging, specialists and more

Virtual primary care builds on the broader telehealth trend, which may help flag gaps in care, prevent complications and avoid unnecessary hospitalizations – all of which may help improve health outcomes and curb costs.

In fact, many people who see their provider virtually report no difference in the quality of the visit, compared to an in-person appointment. One study found patients “vastly preferred” a virtual experience, due to the convenience and the elimination of travel time. According to a UnitedHealthcare survey,one-quarter of respondents said they would actually prefer a virtual relationship with a PCP rather than in-person visits.  

To help prepare for a virtual visit for primary care, you may want to consider taking the following steps:

  • Compile a list of questions and concerns to discuss with your clinician
  • Review your list of current prescriptions and any new or recent health issues  
  • Have your insurance card (either a physical or digital version), a credit card or a qualifying HSA card ready

Virtual care is not intended to address emergency or life-threatening medical conditions and should not be used in those circumstances. If you are experiencing a medical emergency, you should seek appropriate emergency medical assistance or call 911.

If you are a UnitedHealthcare member, you may be able to connect with a virtual primary care provider through your health plan. If you are not a UnitedHealthcare member, check with your health plan to determine what virtual care resources may be available to you.

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