Virtual primary care is a powerful means for letting patients receive care faster and more conveniently. It’s important, too, since so many Americans currently lack access to primary care or don’t have a strong relationship with a primary care provider1. But how can you ensure you’re getting the most from your virtual primary care experience? And what are some of the main ways virtual care differs from in-person care? To answer these questions, we’ll take a look at some of the main benefits of virtual primary care—and learn what makes it a vital enhancement to any modern benefits package.
What are the main components of virtual primary care?
Virtual primary care is comprised of several components, including preventive care, urgent or acute care and care for chronic or long-term sickness. So, as a patient, you can utilize virtual primary care when you need to see a doctor for:
- Short-term illnesses, like a cold or flu.
- Infections, such as rashes or a bad cough.
- Help with chronic conditions, such as asthma, diabetes or hypertension.
- Mental health or cancer screenings.
- Other preventive care.
Major benefits of virtual care
To start with, virtual care makes it easier to see a doctor. It’s significantly helping to increase accessibility and reduce barriers to care.
All you really need is internet access—and you can squeeze in a visit conveniently and on your own terms. This can mean seeing your doctor from the comfort of your home, while you’re at work or even from your parked car while you’re running errands. The extra flexibility makes it easy to fit appointments into even the busiest schedules. Plus, since wait times for in-person appointments can average up to 30 days, virtual care increases availability with shorter wait times to be seen. You can often secure a virtual care appointment with a provider in under a week.
Virtual care can be an affordable choice, too. It’s often substantially less expensive than in-person visits. Virtual care is also successful at helping patients avoid needing more costly trips to urgent care or the emergency room (ER) or from needing expensive long-term care over time.
Here are a few other benefits it has shown:
- Promotes a healthy, ongoing relationship with a primary care physician.
- Increases likelihood of a mental health screening. Patients with exposure to virtual care were two times more likely to receive a mental health screening2.
- Leads to more successful instances of managing and preventing chronic disease3.
- Allows multiple touchpoints, giving doctors more chances to engage with patients through more frequent interactions.
How does virtual care differ from in-person care?
While virtual care offers some advantages when it comes to comfort and convenience, the experience does differ from seeing your provider in-person. It’s also not meant to replace in-person care altogether. However, it can be a way to augment the hands-on care you receive from seeing your doctor face-to-face. Both offer positive options for receiving quality care.
Virtual appointments can serve as great options for follow-up appointments, counseling, simple exams, prescription refills and monitoring chronic conditions. In-person care is crucial when you need tests, such as X-rays, imaging scans or bloodwork. It may also be more beneficial when you need a physical exam, such as listening to your heart or lungs, assessing muscle or bone health and more.
Tips for getting the most from a virtual primary care appointment
If you’re ready to try a virtual care visit, below are some tips that can help you get the most from your appointment.
- Test your technology in advance. You’ll need access to a smartphone, tablet, laptop or desktop computer with an internet connection to conduct your telehealth visit. It’s a good idea to test your setup and Wi-Fi connection ahead of time to make sure you can stream video without any problems.
- Choose a well-lit space and place your camera at eye-level. Along with testing your equipment, you’ll also want to make sure your setting is ideal for video. To do this, choose a well-lit space and try to avoid sitting with your back to a window since that can darken your image on Also, make sure your web camera is at eye level so your provider can see you clearly.
- Select a place that’s private, safe and away from distractions. It’s important to be able to have a clear conversation with your provider about your health. So, try to select a place that’s private, safe and away from distractions—just as if you were in an actual exam room. Examples include your home office, bedroom or even your parked car. Try to avoid using crowded places, like public spaces or busy spots in your home or office.
- Organize your information. Make sure to have any information you may need nearby, such as a list of prescriptions you take, test results, insurance information, etc.
- Make a list of questions. To get the most from your appointment, remember to write down some questions ahead of time. You can refer to your list when you’re on the call. This is helpful so you don’t forget anything while you’re speaking to your provider—especially if you tend to get camera shy. Also, make sure you clearly understand any next steps from your doctor before you finish the call.
Does Meritain Health® have virtual primary care options?
Yes! We currently work with several telehealth options, which may include access to primary care. Some of these include Primary360 from Teladoc Health™, 98point6® (a text-based solution), as well as network access to MinuteClinic® and CVS® HealthHUB™ locations. Available benefits may differ depending on your individual health plan.
If you’re already a Meritain Health member and curious about your included benefits, you can log on to meritain.com to check your benefits or refer to your plan document.
If you’re a plan sponsor or broker interested in learning more about virtual care solutions for your self-funded health plan, simply reach out to your Meritain Health representative for more information.
This article is for informational purposes only and is not meant as medical advice.
Health benefits and health insurance plans contain exclusions and limitations; see your plan documents for complete description of benefits, exclusions, limitations and conditions of coverage. Plan features and availability may vary and are subject to change.