UnitedHealthcare launches new app to manage care, use telehealth
UnitedHealthcare, the nation’s largest health plan, is introducing a new app that will help its members streamline their care and conduct telehealth visits with their doctor.
The app is available for free on Android and Apple devices to the more than 27 million people enrolled in UnitedHealthcare employer-sponsored health benefit plans.
With the app, members can virtually visit with their physicians on their mobile phones, tablets or computers, 24 hours a day, according to a spokesperson for United. Some members may have to pay out-of-pocket costs for the telemedicine services, depending on the plan and any applicable state requirements.
The new app will replace United’s existing Health4Me app over time and is aimed to give plan participants a single source to help them maintain and improve their well being, according to a statement by the Minnetonka, Minn.-based health plan.
“The new app is part of UnitedHealth Group’s more than $3 billion annual investment in data, technology and innovation, helping build a health system that is more intuitive, affordable and convenient,” says Anne Docimo, MD, the company’s chief medical officer. “Digital health resources are fundamentally changing how people navigate the health system, making it possible to access care from anywhere at any time and helping remove barriers to care.”
United’s move to offer members easy access to telehealth coincides with a larger trend. A 2019 study by the National Business Group on Health found that 51 percent of companies are planning to make more use of virtual care solutions. Other studies show that interest in expanding virtual care is especially important to people with chronic conditions and to the 20 percent of the U.S. population that lives in rural areas.
Pat Keran, vice president of product and innovation for United, says the app helps members to decide when to use telehealth, with telehealth visits typically lasting about 20 minutes. Via telehealth, members can see their doctors for treatment of allergies, flu, colds, pinkeye, fevers and rashes. In addition, telehealth also can be used to obtain prescription medications.
An analysis of 2016 UnitedHealthcare emergency department claims data shows that 25 percent of emergency visits could have been avoided, and instead should have been treated via telehealth, with a primary care physician visit or in an urgent/convenient care setting.
In addition to telehealth, some of the other features of United’s new app include: the ability to access health plan ID cards on a smartphone; the ability to email ID cards directly from a mobile device to a healthcare provider; review and management of prescriptions; comparison shopping for care; saving claims and inserting notes for follow-up; locating nearby providers; and checking account balances.