Anthem expanded its virtual primary care services to 11 new states on Tuesday, cementing its strategy of using tech to empower independent practitioners, rather than acquiring physician practices downright.
In the coming months, the insurer aims to expand its digital health services–which offer more than 2 million commercially insured members virtual primary care–across its entire geographic footprint. Anthem, which manages Blue Cross Blue Shield plans in 14 states, embeds these digital services into its existing insurance products for fully insured and self-insured members. The company aims to cover 10 million self-insured lives through its digital primary care services by the end of the year.
The insurer also aims to expand its virtual-first products for fully-insured members to eight states by the end of 2022. Anthem rolled out its inaugural virtual-first plan for fully-insured members in six states during open enrollment this year. The plan requires members to visit a clinician virtually before seeing a physician in-person. It's too soon to disclose membership of its digital-first offering but early numbers are promising, said Rajeev Ronanki, chief digital officer.
"We are constantly studying the demand for these services," Ronanki said. "Usually the limiting factor tends to be just getting all the regulatory approval we need because the rules and regs are different in each state. So as soon as those are squared away, we'd be ready to launch."
Rather than following competitors' strategy of scooping up physicians' practices to become a payvidor, Anthem is focused on becoming a digital health company that connects disparate clinicians through technology that promotes value-based care, Ronanki said. By equipping providers with technology that helps them navigate new payment models, the company said it has been able to cut patients' healthcare costs, increase membership through customer experience updates and boost reimbursement from the federal government's Medicare Advantage Star ratings program.
"Ours is like a partnership strategy," Ronanki said. "We don't acquire care delivery. It's the integration we want, making sure that virtual and digital care is not a silo that just exists on its own on an island, but it's connected into the rest of the care ecosystem."
The company's investment strategy mirrors this aim, he said.