Virtual Specialty Care Delivers on Consumer Preferences 

Updated on May 6, 2023

Since 2020, virtual care has grown dramatically to enable healthcare delivery, reduce friction, improve access, and offer greater convenience. Virtual care has strengthened a consumer-centric approach to healthcare that drives better health outcomes and reduces healthcare costs.

U.S. Adults are Seeing Specialists and Using Virtual Care 

In a recent nationwide survey, 730 U.S. adults shared their attitudes, behaviors, and experiences with in-person and virtual care—with emphasis on the access and visits to specialists. For most, an annual primary care visit is common, but survey findings reveal that consumers also frequently see specialists for health journeys that can address everything from allergies to cancer and complex pediatrics to urologic conditions. 

  • Sixty-six percent of consumers surveyed indicated they have seen a specialist more than once in the past two years.
  • Of these consumers, 25% visited a specialist two or three times—with 17% visiting four or five times.
  • The most visited specialists were cardiologist (70%), neurologists (68%), orthopedists (68%), pediatricians (66%), and oncologists (54%).

Overall, a third of survey respondents indicated that most of their recent doctor visits have been virtual—and 87% were satisfied with their virtual appointment, reinforcing the positive role that virtual specialty care plays in healthcare. 

Virtual Specialty Care Delivers on Consumer Preferences

Specialty care is where the cost and complexity live today in healthcare, where people need help at those critical moments and access to the experts to answer their questions. Virtual specialty care is the new category in virtual healthcare that transforms access to leading specialists and delivers on consumer needs by: 

  • Identifying knowledgeable specialists with deep experience in a specific health condition. Survey respondents were not satisfied with just “any” specialist. They wanted specialists with specific experience and expertise with their medical condition or concern, emphasizing the need for personalized care. Virtual specialty care provides members with access to deep, cross-continuum provider networks. Because of the size and quality of these networks, they include leading physicians who span all medical disciplines—including narrow subspecialties with focused knowledge and experience in niche conditions or populations. Specialists in these networks practice at the top of the field and can provide deep, nuanced clinical guidance that accelerates time to diagnosis and treatment. 
  • Providing more time for physicians and patients to connect and build lasting relationships during visits. With proper incentives and elegant technology, specialists can spend quality time with patients, to address their patients’ concerns. They have the time to answer every question, offer educational resources and tools, and provide a personalized plan that empowers patients to take the next steps in their health journey. Most importantly, these longer visits restore the human connection that patients need and want when dealing with any health question for themselves and for others in their family. This warm, human connection is especially important in vulnerable moments when health challenges seem overwhelming. 
  • Developing a relationship of trust to instill comfort and confidence, particularly among young women. Although survey results reveal that most healthcare consumers have positive experiences with specialists, young women note feeling nervous and less confident in navigating the healthcare system for themselves. Using virtual specialty care, the medium also supports private conversations on health concerns, including reproductive care and the broader spectrum of women’s health topics including autoimmune diseases, rheumatoid arthritis, specific cancers, and more. 
  • Selecting a specialist with a history of treating diverse patient populations.

Survey results indicate that young and BIPOC consumers prioritize and value specialists who are experienced with diverse populations, and they wish to identify specialists based on their own criteria—like filtering results in a shopping app. Consumers want to see specialists who are themselves or who have provided care for patients of the same race, ethnicity, or cultural tradition. Virtual specialty care provides this benefit by offering a pool of highly qualified physicians across a wide demography—creating a “doctor’s office” that has a diverse population of thousands of physicians.

Virtual Specialty Care is Here to Stay

Healthcare continues to change to meet market demand, and virtual specialty care has found its roots in what consumers desire most from their healthcare experiences: accelerated access to experienced specialists for personalized care. But virtual specialty care promises even more: with scalable access, longer visits, a greater choice in doctors, and more convenient access to deeper expertise, virtual specialty care is creating an important new category in employee health benefits. By delivering personalized care while  also optimizing  treatment paths, avoiding surgeries, visits and unnecessary tests, VSC helps employers support wellbeing while also making a real cost impact. All of this contributes to healthier, empowered, and more productive individuals, in the workplace and in the world. 

Summus is the virtual clinical front door to access trusted, high quality healthcare expertise for more than 2.1 million members around the world, answering any health question and supporting people at the moments that matter most. 

Julian Flannery
CEO and Founder at Summus

Julian has built the leading marketplace for medical expertise and is an industry speaker and thought leader. He previously served on the management team and was Managing Director, Global Research at Gerson Lehrman Group, the world’s largest membership-based platform for professional expertise. He oversaw GLG’s service operation, products, and content, and directed management of its 400,000+ expert membership base. He formerly worked at Morgan Stanley as Associate and Chief of Staff to the Chairman & CEO and in Special Situations and Investment Banking. In 2001, he served in The White House as an aid to the Chief of Staff to the President. He received his M.B.A. from Harvard Business School and A.B. in Economics from Duke University.

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