Optum shutting down telehealth business

UnitedHealth Group's Optum Virtual Care is shutting down, Endpoints News reported April 24.

News of the closure of the company's telehealth business came shortly after Optum employees took to social media beginning April 18 regarding a reduction in force they say occurred across the organization.

"Virtual care has been and will continue to be a core part of our comprehensive, integrated care delivery model designed to provide care to people where, when and how they prefer," an Optum spokesperson told Becker's. "We continually review the capabilities and services we offer to meet the growing and evolving needs of our businesses and the people we serve. As always, we will support affected team members with job placement resources and seek to deploy them where possible to any open roles within the company."

Optum Virtual Care launched in 2021 and offers virtual access to physicians and nurse practitioners at any time across all 50 states. In June, the division's CEO, Kristi Henderson, departed and later was named CEO at Confluent Health, a provider of musculoskeletal rehabilitation services.

In 2022, UnitedHealth Group CEO Andrew Witty said the company built telehealth strategies to reduce wasteful spending and meet the need for more behavioral healthcare.

At UnitedHealth's investor conference in November, Optum's CEO, Heather Cianfrocco, discussed how UnitedHealth views its virtual health capabilities within the context of broader challenges facing the healthcare system.

"There's no shortage of companies that are working to change these experiences for the better, but this dynamic only compounds the challenge," she said. "There's hundreds of digital properties offering alternatives for everything, from advice and benefits to treatments and virtual care. Consumers are overloaded or overwhelmed with options, and we're struggling with point solutions as we try to customize, compare and choose.

"And this means meeting people where they are, which at times means moving healthcare from a clipboard in the clinic to an app on their phone. Developing the digital-first capabilities that enable our company to deliver on these ambitions of convenience and consumer confidence."

Though some recent reports have found national use of telehealth services has been on the upswing, health systems such as Oakland, Calif.-based Kaiser Permanente have reported that virtual visits have been on the decline since 2021.

Teladoc Health, one of the country's largest telehealth providers, cut jobs in January following layoffs in early 2023. Let's Talk Interactive, a software company specializing in telehealth, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in September.

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