HealthPartners' online clinic for simple conditions delivers savings of $88 per episode and high patient approval
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The delivery of health care online is relatively new. However, early indications suggest that it can improve the experience of care for patients and the health of populations, along with reducing per capita health care costs. HealthPartners in Minnesota launched an online clinic called virtuwell in late 2010. After more than 40,000 cases, we report an average $88 lower cost per episode compared with care received in traditional settings, strong indicators of clinical effectiveness, and a 98 percent "would recommend" rating from customers. The possibility of extrapolating such savings to larger volumes of cases is compelling. We suggest a need for regulatory reform, particularly around state-level statutes that create barriers to the expansion of online care delivery, such as those that require clinicians to be located in the same state as the patient and those requiring clinicians to have had a previous face-to-face visit with a patient. Such reforms would encourage further innovation and lead to cost reduction and improvements in access and convenience for consumers throughout the health care system.
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