As originally published by Patrick Carroll on Linkedin.
COVID-19 has placed a huge strain on our healthcare system and healthcare workers are taking significant personal risks to provide in-person care. For those working tirelessly on the front lines of treating acute cases this is unavoidable, and I speak for millions in saying thank you for this heroic effort. Meanwhile, telemedicine is offering a way of opening up access to high-quality primary care to millions of Americans who are staying home to contain the spread of the virus.
Use of telemedicine by doctors was rising well before COVID-19. There was huge consumer demand, coupled with an anticipated shortfall of 46,900 to 121,900 primary and specialty-care physicians by 2032 (according to the American Medical Colleges). Many doctors use telemedicine to complement their existing in-person practices and provide patients with access to high-quality care at transparent prices. In a recent survey of providers on Hims & Hers, nearly 80% said they use telemedicine as a flexible way to provide additional care alongside in-person consultations.
Since our launch, we’ve been focused on providing access to treatment for a number of chronic health conditions. But a few weeks ago it became apparent that there was an urgent need for more access points to care. We decided to rapidly adapt, adding the ability for providers to treat a number of primary care conditions from the safety of their homes. This was always in the long-term plan — there was a clear demand from Hims & Hers customers to have the option for at-home primary care — but the services weren’t on any near-term product roadmap.
I knew our existing systems could be thoroughly but rapidly updated to support primary care. My time at Walgreens overseeing more than 400 retail clinics meant I was familiar with the effective use of evidence-based guidelines to assess a wide variety of conditions. I also knew that the provider group serving patients through our platform was fully capable of making this shift. The healthcare professionals on our platform are highly qualified and many are family medicine and general practitioner providers who specialize in providing primary care. These new primary care platform offerings were reviewed in depth by the medical group leaders, our expert medical advisor team and the clinical quality team.
Providers on our platform are now able to treat around 70% of the conditions that patients seek treatment for in retail clinics. The range of conditions is broad, including flu, sinus infections, conjunctivitis and UTIs. This service is now available in 28 states and our hope is to bring it to even more people soon.
Since launching access to primary care, we’ve heard from providers who work with us that patients feel a deep sense of responsibility to alleviate pressure on their local healthcare system by seeking virtual care, as well as a desire to stay at home and away from those who have already contracted COVID-19. And providers themselves, faced with a lighter than normal caseload because of postponed elective visits and procedures, are relishing the opportunity to continue seeing and helping patients.
Every healthcare provider who is providing primary care on telemedicine platforms is making an important contribution in the fight against COVID-19 and doing their part to help their colleagues on the front lines stop the spread.