Studies which quantify telehealth cost savings and visit reduction are always welcome. Cigna, through its telehealth company MDLIVE (purchased in April 2021), crunched the numbers and found some quantifiable savings and positive results:
- Depending on whether the visit is for non-urgent primary care, visiting a specialist, or urgent care, telehealth savings are in the $100 range per visit: $93, $120, and $141 respectively.
- For urgent care, reducing unnecessary visits to both urgent care clinics and ER/ED settings is a major cost savings and a key measure of health plan performance. Virtual visits were found to reduce unnecessary emergency room or urgent care visits by 19%.
- Lab visits were also reduced in cost. Patients who saw MDLIVE providers during urgent care visits were able to avoid unnecessary tests, saving an average of $118 for each episode of care.
Unfortunately, some of the results offered up by Cigna are countered by other sources–and surprisingly they didn’t cross-check:
- Evernorth, their health services business, estimates that telehealth visits are currently 25% of all visits. That is far above the claims information that FAIR Health tracks, where telehealth is below 4%. Back in April 2020, it was 13%. Even Epic’s tracking indicated that the peak of 69% of visits in April 2020 tailed off one month later to 21% [TTA 8 Jan].
- Citing 2020 only data around virtual wellness screenings and health conditions as a new normal is problematic. Cigna claims that more than 75% of Cigna customers who had an MDLIVE virtual wellness screening in 2020 not only lacked a primary care physician but also that two-thirds of these PCP-less patients learned they had a health condition via the virtual screening. Practices and people were locked down for most of 2020 and these numbers are likely skewed.
Updated MDLIVE announced today a remote patient monitoring program for members with chronic conditions Members can upload monitoring information such as blood glucose or blood pressure to their patient portal so that their MDLIVE doctor can review during the next telehealth visit. This feature will be available to health plans that utilize MDLIVE primary care services. Later this year, they will offer a device interface to the patient portal so that no manual entry will be needed. Mobihealthnews