- Doctor On Demand has launched a new virtual care platform for health plans and employers aimed at expanding access to primary care.
- The platform, called Synapse, integrates into health plans' existing networks to provide a full range of health and wellness services, from preventive health to chronic care, urgent care and behavioral health. The company said it designed Synapse to address the growing number of Americans who lack a primary care physician.
- The platform includes a single patient profile including all health records and updates, including from connected devices. It also allows patients to access a full range of clinical capabilities either on demand or by appointment.
The announcement comes as studies are showing a decline in primary care.
According to the Health Care Cost Institute, the number of primary care visits by people with employer-sponsored health insurance fell by 18% between 2012 and 2016. Another report by UnitedHealth Group found that 13% of Americans live in areas with not enough primary care providers.
The Association of American Medical Colleges predicts a shortage of 14,800 to 49,000 primary care doctors by 2030.
Efforts like Synapse have tried and failed in the past. Google retired its personal health records product, Google Health, in 2011 after it failed to scale according to plan.
Patients tend to like the convenience of virtual care, but may have concerns about security and ease of using the platform. Still, with the press for interoperability and gaps in primary care, targeting Synapse at employers and health plans could help it scale up more quickly.
One feature could be particularly popular with people trying to guard against surprise medical bills. Synapse's "smart referrals" feature ensures all referrals, lab services, imaging and prescriptions remain in network, the company says.
Doctor On Demand is banking on Synapse's patient-centric design to increase use of primary care. The platform can complement care for patients with primary care doctors through such means as preventive care services and chronic care management, while also drawing people into the primary care fold who would otherwise not get those services.
CEO Hill Ferguson called Synapse a "milestone" for the company and the larger telehealth industry. "We have developed the capabilities to use our national medical practice of dedicated physicians, supported by a fully-integrated and owned technology platform, to play a far greater role in addressing gaps in primary care," he said in a statement.