Amplifying Virtual Care and Mental Health Services

from Kim Shepard

The biggest change in healthcare during the past three years of the pandemic is the exponential growth in virtual care — 76% of people are now interested in using telehealth vs 11% in 2019. One in three visits will be virtual in the future — our customers recognize the convenience of accessing care from their smartphones or computers wherever, whenever they need it without having to waste time in traffic or sitting in the doctor’s waiting room. 

It’s important for people to realize that telemedicine is not just minor medical care. Thanks to our acquisition of MD LIVE that significantly expanded Cigna’s virtual care network of providers, we offer urgent care, primary care, behavioral, dermatology, dental, and acute and chronic condition support. And virtual care isn’t just about convenience; it’s more affordable. For example, with virtual care our customers and their employers see a $1,490 savings compared with avoidable ER visits

Beyond rapidly changing access to care models, we’re seeing an acceleration of pharmacological innovations and pharmacy solutions, such as Cigna’s Patient Assurance Program. Our focus on innovation has helped Cigna deliver the lowest medical and pharmacy cost trend in the industry. We also form partnerships to accelerate the pace of innovation, help us create mutual value and expand our addressable market. One example of that is our partnership with Prime Therapeutics, which allows us to make pharmacy care more affordable for its 30 million customers across 23 health plans. 

Finally, the pandemic has brought an even greater recognition of the connection between mental and physical health. Again, through our MD Live acquisition we have greatly expanded our network of mental health providers to provide much-needed care. During COVID we not only kept our members as a priority, but also brought the well-being of our healthcare partners into consideration. Resources around provider burnout and mental health well-being not only became part of our strategy during the pandemic, but we continue to make these key areas of focus as we move forward into yet another new healthcare landscape. More than anything, we partner with and work alongside our ACOs, maintaining clear channels of open and frequent communication. It is with the partnership that we’re able to be clear about the needs our members and clients are facing, and strategize together around how we can meet these needs on both sides.

Though the healthcare landscape is ever-changing, Cigna has focused on being flexible and shifting our lens to the various needs of the provider, health systems and, most importantly, the member, throughout the pandemic and after. Our ACOs and value-based programs are not stagnant; whether they are evolving to the needs of the member, the providers or the environment, we make those necessary shifts in our expectations and our support. Throughout COVID and beyond, we made it our priority to keep our finger on the pulse of the healthcare environment around us, while still prioritizing safe, effective, quality care for our members as the ultimate goal. 

Adapt and Build Resilience

In this environment, it’s essential for companies to be nimble, adapt quickly to challenges and help build resilience in their workforce. For example, in the early days of the pandemic, we did a pulse survey of Cigna employees and learned they were feeling stressed about taking time off to care for small children or were having difficulty managing children at home while working at the same time. We used that feedback to guide our next steps — including offering 10 additional days off, time-off support and scheduling flexibility. 

We know that employee health is the critical driver of business performance. Pre-pandemic, most businesses considered health benefits a cost to be managed, and little more. Now, smart leaders recognize that a healthy workforce directly impacts the bottom line for their companies. That’s why we launched Your New Growth Plan to differentiate Cigna as the partner of choice in employee health and business growth. We are constantly innovating to offer new technology capabilities to provide our clients and customers with the types of experiences they expect, and that innovation is something companies can do to prepare for future challenges.

Our goal is to make healthcare affordable, simple and predictable as we work toward our mission to improve the health, well-being and peace of mind for the people we serve: our employees, clients, customers and communities. Part of that is working with our clients to create wellness programs for their employees that really encourage health and foster a culture of well-being from the top down, as that leads to organizational productivity and growth. 

Kim Shepard is responsible for driving market growth and affordability across all buyer groups (employer-sponsored, individual and seniors) in Arizona. With 39 years in the industry, Shepard has been with Cigna for almost 20 of them and is currently the general manager for Cigna Arizona.

See the full story: Ever-Changing Healthcare – The new impact healthcare is having on our companies and their people

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