MDLive deal, telehealth: What Cigna's Evernorth COO envisions

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On Feb. 26, Evernorth, Cigna's health services business, said it entered into a definitive agreement to acquire telehealth company MDLive.

The deal comes after Cigna partnered with MDLive in December 2019 to offer health plan members access to online appointments with psychiatrists and behavioral health counselors. Cigna has also invested in MDLive.

Becker's Hospital Review asked Eric Palmer, president and COO of Evernorth, to weigh in on what Evernorth's telehealth priorities are for the next year and how the MDLive deal will affect its strategy.

Here are his answers, edited lightly for brevity and clarity:  

Question: What are Evernorth's telehealth priorities for the next year? 

Eric Palmer: According to a recent survey we conducted, almost 1 in 4 consumers reported using virtual care due to COVID-19, and 40 percent believe the use of virtual care solutions will increase even after the pandemic subsides. Three out of 4 Americans believe that even more care will be delivered at home in the future.

Evernorth brings significant capabilities in the areas of benefits, care delivery, pharmacy, and data and intelligence. We plan to leverage those capabilities to deliver end-to-end care experience to complement — not replace — the way customers and patients interact with their existing providers to achieve:

  • early identification and diagnosis of critical care needs
  • faster and more seamless referrals to high-performing providers, including specialists and behavioral health; and
  • more convenient access to appropriate, affordable sites of service and pharmaceutical fulfillment

Q: What role does the MDLive transaction play in this? 

EP: We have partnered successfully with MDLive for several years. We have seen that customers expect more convenient care interactions, and COVID-19 has rapidly accelerated this need. Therefore, we see an immediate opportunity to build a new model of care delivery, one that delivers a connected experience with greater affordability, predictability and simplicity.

MDLive will be part of the new, differentiated care solutions from Evernorth that improve the patient experience, close the patient-provider accessibility gap and bring providers opportunities to augment the services they currently offer. We'll also have the opportunity to expand the reach of MDLive's capabilities to Evernorth's clients, as well as Cigna U.S. Medical customers and clients.

MDLive and Evernorth will have near- and long-term opportunities to accelerate growth across a wide range of care solutions, from acute care to complex care and everything in between, to improve health and the healthcare experience for our customers. These services, through Evernorth, will continue to be made available to health plans, directly to employers, and to government programs and care providers to improve affordability and make a difference in the greatest number of lives.

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