Walmart and the parent company of Mucinex are partnering with Doctor On Demand, a virtual care provider headquartered in California that has spread nationwide and is steadily expanding.
On Wednesday, RB, the English-based health and hygiene company, announced that consumers who purchase their products Mucinex, Airborne or Digestive Advantage at Walmart stores or through walmart.com would receive a limited-time offer for a medical video visit with a Doctor on Demand physician at no cost.
Doctor on Demand already has a number of direct contracts with large employers including Walmart, Wells Fargo, Comcast, American and United Airlines. Employees at these companies are able to use Doctor on Demand services.
WHY THIS MATTERS
Virtual care is a big part of the future of healthcare. It is not replacing face-to-face physician visits, but represents a less expensive, more convenient consumer care experience, exactly the direction the healthcare industry has been told to head.
In-office visits are more expensive and time-consuming, Doctor on Demand said. Plus, 30 percent of adults don't have a primary care physician.
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and private health plans are increasingly reimbursing providers for telehealth.
Doctor on Demand works with national health plans such as UnitedHealthcare and Humana and others, which pay less for the virtual services than in-patient care.
Medicare will begin allowing monitoring from homes starting in 2020 and other changes are coming that will further open up the business.
Doctor on Demand got onboard the virtual visit trend before it crested and has been riding it to success.
The company has grown with smartphone adoption, according to Dr. Ian Tong, chief medical officer at the San Francisco headquarters.
When Doctor on Demand launched in 2012, it was a direct to consumer medical company. It then began adding large companies. It also expanded into rural areas such as in upstate New York, where Doctor on Demand is an in-network provider.
Patients accessed a video-based virtual visit through a mobile device.
Consumers wearing a Fitbit or who have a smartphone can download an app that gives the heart rate, oxygen saturation or an EKG reading.
Doctors use a mobile device camera to see down the back of throats, a method that works as well, or even better, than a tongue depressor, Tong said.
The company developed its own EMR and embedded the video component in its platform, so patients and physicians are seeing the same health information.
The majority of patients are between the ages of 25 and 50. About 10 percent of its patient population is between the ages of 50-55, and that drops to 8 percent for those aged 55-65.
Physicians are attracted to the business model because they can work from home.
The company isn't paying the overhead for real estate and to staff buildings. Doctor on Demand has three offices to handle administrative work.
The core message is that virtual care works as well as an office visit. But it's not meant to displace primary care physicians.
An audit run by Humana showed virtual visits have similar results to in-person visits as far as how many patients revisited their provider.
Humana assessed the severity score and diagnosis comparison and followed with claims data 14 days later.
The rate for those patients going to the emergency room who had used Doctor on Demand was 1.3 percent, compared to 1.1 percent for those who originally went into an office.
The antibiotic fill rates were 36.1 percent for telemedicine and 40 percent for in-office visits.
Doctor on Demand did have a higher 14-day revisit rate to urgent care than those who had seen a physician in-person. The revisit rate for Doctor on Demand was 0.9 percent, compared to 0.1 percent for in-office.