The importance of engaging health plan members in virtual care

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, New York City was one of the first places in the United States to feel its major effects.   

Health systems all over the city were forced to pause non-essential care and spin up virtual options – sometimes in a matter of days. 

MetroPlus Health Plan, which offers access to low- to no-cost healthcare to individuals in New York City, teamed up with Amwell to connect members with virtual services during the tumult.  

"What I'm inspired by is that story of getting in front of people that really need care and providing them with an easy, convenient way of getting quality care," said Marie Renzi, director of health plan and employer engagement at Amwell.  

Renzi, who will be presenting with MetroPlus Director of Corporate Communication Kathryn Soman at HIMSS21 in Las Vegas on Aug. 12, said the crisis of the pandemic made telehealth's efficacy clear – especially for some people who might otherwise struggle to get services.  

"It's very unfortunate that the pandemic happened. But it's awesome that we were there to help – that this technology was there to help," said Renzi. 

She pointed out, as others have, that the relaxed federal regulations around telehealth played a major role in its expansion.  

"I think it was initially very trying on the entire healthcare system, but we were able to quickly figure it out, scale, respond and react, and continue to provide care," she said.

Looking to the future, it's clear that telehealth utilization is unlikely to maintain the same level of momentum it had at the peak of the pandemic.   

But that doesn't mean it won't be useful or necessary for many people, Renzi points out.   

"There's a lot of consumers who don't have a regular primary care provider, so that virtual option is an easy, convenient option for them to get the care they need," she said.

"The convenient aspect of telehealth is something you can't deny, and it's something consumers place at the very top when it comes to why they use virtual care," she added. "That's something health plans and health systems need to focus on. It's there when you need it, and it's quality care."  

Renzi says she hopes attendees of her and Soman's panel at HIMSS21 will learn the importance of keeping virtual care top-of-mind as a modality.  

"There's a vast horizon we're looking at with opportunities from virtual care," she said. "Keeping consumers engaged in this care option will be so important for health systems to attract and retain consumers who want easy access to care.  

"And then on the health plan side, it's going to be important for consumers to get the care they need and hopefully keep more members who don't have a PCP," she added.  

Stories like that of MetroPlus Health Plan, she says, shine a light on the value of virtual care, especially for vulnerable people.  

"It brings tears to your eyes to realize the impact this has on our fellow Americans, our fellow humans," said Renzi.  

Marie Renzi and Kathryn Soman are scheduled to present at HIMSS21 on Friday, Aug. 12, at 10 a.m. in Venetian Marco Polo 701.


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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