CVS Health’s MinuteClinic is launching a new “virtual health care offering” to allow patients round-the-clock treatment for minor illnesses, injuries and conditions from their mobile devices.
CVS said it will leverage the technology platform of Teladoc Health , a global provider of telehealth services, so “ patients can receive care via a MinuteClinic Video Visit, initiated through the CVS Pharmacy app ,” the companies said.
“Through this new telehealth offering, patients now have an additional option for seeking care that is even more convenient for them,” CVS Health executive vice president and chief medical officer Dr. Troyen Brennan said.
The new services widen what has thus far been a testing of telehealth by CVS’ MinuteClinic, but the retail health clinic chain’s executives said its customers are highly satisfied with the quality and convenience of virtual care so they are expanding it. CVS operates 1,112 MinuteClinics across 33 states and Washington, D.C. The company Wednesday said clinic revenues were up 4.2% in the second quarter.
“As we continue to move the capabilities of virtual care forward, this is an exciting advancement,” Teladoc CEO Jason Gorevic said. “CVS Health’s expansion of their health care model to include video visits brings even more care delivery options to patients.”
The expansion of telehealth services by CVS and MinuteClinic comes as telehealth services experience widening commercial insurance coverage and interest from policy-makers in Washington. Employers and private insurers are already embracing the trend as a way to make healthcare more convenient and avoid costly and unnecessary trips to the emergency room or a more expensive physician’s office.
Just this week, the National Business Group on Health said 52% of large employers believe “virtual care” will have a role in how healthcare is delivered in the future.
In addition, telehealth service is poised to take off thanks to the recently approved federal budget that includes expanded access to virtual doctor visits for Americans covered by private Medicare Advantage plans. Health insurers see Medicare Advantage (MA) as a key growth area as more seniors are drawn to privately managed Medicare benefits. It is expected to be a huge boon to Teladoc and its rivals like MDLive, which already has a partnership with Walgreens Boots Alliance, and American Well as well as an array of startups getting into the business of offering access to physicians and patients via smart phone, tablet or computer.
For now, the MinuteClinic Video Visit costs $59 and customers can pay for it with debit or credit cards in nine states: Arizona, California, Florida, Idaho, Maine, Maryland, Mississippi, New Hampshire and Virginia and Washington D.C. By the end of this year, the service should be available nationwide. “Insurance coverage will be added to the experience in the coming months,” CVS said in a statement.