As telehealth services expanded across the globe to continue safely providing care during the COVID-19 pandemic, the impact of that shift is becoming clear.
Amil, part of UnitedHealth Group Brasil, expanded access to virtual services for its 3.4 million beneficiaries in March of last year. As of July 2021, more than 1.5 million telehealth services have been completed, a testament to the expanded options and resources for members.
This shift to virtual care, for an area struggling with surging cases of COVID-19, means less reliance on emergency room services and reduced exposure to — and potential spread of — the virus.
"On average, 70% of people* who intended to go to the emergency room in recent months had their problems resolved in the virtual emergency room,” said Fernando Pedro, director of Value Management in Health at Amil. “In other words, all these people stopped going to the hospital to receive the guidance they received through virtual contact with nurses, psychologists or doctors.”
For less complex medical cases, the emergency room might not be the best option — especially in areas where COVID-19 cases have put a strain on hospital resources. With that in mind, Amil created two models of telehealth services — 24/7 virtual emergency care and teleconsultation by appointment. In June 2021 alone, 80,000 appointments were scheduled at Amil units, and 60,000 calls were made to Amil’s virtual emergency room. One of every five elective consultations was performed by Amil via telehealth.
Telehealth expansion in Brazil has not only been important for meeting the immediate needs of patients but also for reducing the spread of COVID-19 in hospital settings. Beyond medical treatment and guidance, doctors have been able to send medical leave certificates and prescriptions through the telehealth system, eliminating the need of in-person visits at a crucial time.
Today, Amil has the capacity to serve more than 6,000 people a day through these telehealth services — paving the way for continued care that may be both accessible and more affordable for those it serves.
*Based on an Amil survey of members, completed in May 2021