health care

SEATTLE -- The COVID-19 pandemic is speeding up the trend for health care online.

Kaiser Permanente is offering Washingtonians "Virtual Plus" coverage plans, geared toward assessing and treating patients over the internet.

Todd Hesse, senior director of account management for Kaiser, said the pandemic has shifted the way people think about care, with virtual visits increasing from 20% of all visits, to 65%.

He said in part, that's because many people are concerned about the safety of going into an office setting.

"What Virtual Plus does is, it provides options to an individual for seeking virtual care versus having to go into an office if they aren't comfortable in doing that," Hesse said.

Hesse noted people with Virtual Plus plans can connect via chat and email 24/7 as well. He said a person's electronic medical records are linked to them, no matter how they choose to connect.

Hesse said another consideration is that the plan is cheaper, an important attribute for some patients, with so much uncertainty in the economy.

"It's a lower-cost plan that really gives an individual more options, and quite frankly, more control over their own health-care costs based on how they choose to access care," Hesse said.

Hesse said doctors like virtual visits, too, because it makes care more convenient for people without reliable transportation.

"Our clinicians have long embraced being able to assess, treat individuals virtually, because that removes just one of the barriers that we had historically seen to care," Hesse added.

A trip to the pharmacy isn't required under Virtual Plus plans either. Folks can have their medications delivered to their homes.

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