- Cigna’s health services division Evernorth has acquired the technology and clinical capabilities of asynchronous telehealth provider Bright.md for an undisclosed amount, the company announced on Tuesday at the HLTH conference in Las Vegas.
- Evernorth’s telehealth business MDLive plans to start offering asynchronous care using the new capabilities within its virtual urgent care platform in 2024, and eventually expand asynchronous care to chronic disease management and wellness visits.
- A spokesperson for the company said it was too early to share a specific timeline for the launch in virtual urgent care and the expansion to more clinical areas. Currently, more than 43 million people have access to MDLive virtual urgent care through their health plans and employers, Cigna says.
Asynchronous virtual care allows clinicians to review information, render a diagnosis and prescribe needed medication without communicating in real time with a patient.
A crop of startups, including Bright.md, Zipnosis and 98point6 — as well as nontraditional entrants like Amazon, with its telemedicine marketplace — are peddling asynchronous care tools that allow patients to triage low-acuity healthcare needs without having to rely on costlier avenues of care like an emergency department visit, or wait for a primary care appointment.
When asynchronous care launches next year, MDLive users will be guided through a digital clinical interview that will be converted into a chart note. A clinician will review the note and provide a diagnosis or prescription, or direct the patient to a different care setting if needed, according to Cigna.
At a time when insurers are facing growing public scrutiny over their use of algorithms to review claims, Cigna’s release on the new offering says the asynchronous care experience “is not based on artifical intelligence or machine learning.”
An Evernorth spokesperson said Bright.md’s platform uses branching logic to identify and ask follow-up questions, and all decisionmaking is done by the treating clinician.
However, Bright.md in past releases has said its software uses AI to inform new questions based on information provided by the patient.
Portland, Oregon-based Bright.md was founded in 2014 as a virtual care platform for direct-to-patient telehealth. The startup, which has raised roughly $31 million to date, sells its software to health systems, including West Coast system Adventist Health, Prisma Health in South Carolina and Rush University Medical Group in Chicago.
In those deals, a clinician (normally an urgent care provider) employed by the system is used to staff asynchronous care. At Cigna, patients who take an asynchronous visit will be treated by MDLive clinicians, according to the Evernorth spokesperson.
Cigna will license Bright.md’s technology back to the company in a continuing services agreement so its health system clients can continue using the platform, the spokesperson said.
Cigna purchased MDLive in 2021 as demand for virtual care snowballed during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Connecticut-based payer has expanded the telehealth provider’s capabilities as employers expressed more interest in virtual-first health plans, adding chronic condition management last year.