Provider Super Power #5: Seamless connection to in-person primary care and specialty providers

Written by Dr. Melynda Barnes, MD 

Written by Dr. Melynda Barnes, MD 

last updated: Nov 04, 2020

3 min read

Here's what we'll cover

  1. What it is

  2. How it works

  3. The big picture

Ro is building the future of healthcare by leveraging technology. We see that future as one in which technology empowers providers to deliver high-quality care and empowers patients to manage their health more easily and effectively.

In our Provider “Super Power” series, we take a deep dive into the tech-enabled solutions that are designed and built by Ro’s in-house clinical and engineering teams. These solutions empower providers — physicians, nurses, and pharmacists — to deliver the best possible care, experience, and results for patients on Ro’s telehealth platform. We call these “super powers” because they supercharge a provider’s ability to deliver high-quality care.

Ro is using technology to bridge the gap between telehealth and in-person care. This article explores how Ro seamlessly guides patients to in-person providers when they need it and why a stronger connection between in-person care and telehealth is needed for a patient-centric healthcare system.

What it is

Ro aims to be a patient’s first call for all of their health needs — that can be addressing their needs end-to-end via our telehealth services or helping them find the in-person providers and care that best fits their needs. We believe telehealth is a complement to a patient’s in-person care, not a replacement. We recommend every patient continue with their in-person primary care provider and, if needed, help patients find an in-person primary care or specialty provider.

Many times a patient’s health need is deemed unsuitable for telehealth by providers practicing on Ro’s platform. Often, providers on Ro’s platform determine a patient’s health needs are best suited for in-person care, such as when they require specialty care, a physical exam, or imaging services. And some patients Ro can treat may need in-person services before Ro-affiliated providers can safely make a decision on appropriate treatment. When that is the case, Ro-affiliated providers can seamlessly present patients with a healthcare provider search tool so that they can find the appropriate in-person care based on custom search criteria.

How it works

Through a partnership with Ribbon Health, patients on Ro’s platform who are better served by in-person providers are able to seamlessly find an in-person primary care and specialist provider based on specialty, location, services offered, languages spoken, and accepted insurance.

Powered by Ribbon Health’s accurate and reliable provider database, Ro-affiliated providers can seamlessly offer their patients a customized provider search tool when they require care or services from others. Ro helps patients find local providers that may be able to serve their needs in their area no matter where they live in the U.S.

The big picture

25% of Americans do not have a primary care provider and that number varies when you look at different patient subgroups, such as race. For instance, 31% of Black men in the U.S. do not have a primary care provider. Provider availability, especially in rural areas and primary care deserts, stigma and discrimination, cost, and insurance coverage are often factors leading to this and the avoidance or delay in care. In addition to traditional access barriers, there are also information barriers. Standard information that patients need to select a provider, such as contact information, quality or cost information, accepted insurances, or office hours, is often hard to find, segmented across different sources, and inaccurate or out-of-date.

For patients without a primary care provider or access to healthcare, telehealth can be a more accessible, affordable, and approachable entry point into the healthcare system, can alleviate some of the burden on in-person care providers, and can serve as a bridge to in-person care, when that’s needed. Ro treats patients in 98% of primary care deserts and our Online Visits are affordably priced, no insurance required. Ro also treats many stigmatized conditions, like obesity, sexual health, and nicotine addiction, offering a more approachable first touch point for healthcare. Additionally, Ro’s Online Visits are informed by world-class medical protocols and expertise, helping ensure patients have access to high-quality care virtually.

In this way, Ro’s telehealth platform addresses patients’ health needs and encourages more frequent healthcare touchpoints for patients, both in-person and online. If a patient can use telehealth to point them in the right direction for their unique healthcare needs, it can reduce the friction it takes to find appropriate and affordable in-person care, and promote continuity of care between telehealth and in-person settings. Nearly 75% of patients who’ve been directed to in-person care via our partnership with Ribbon searched for a primary care provider (Data sourced February — September 2020), with 64% of those patients filtering search options by provider language spoken or gender. Ro fulfills its commitment to being a patient’s first call by helping patients access care, whether that care is best delivered through Ro’s platform or by other in-person providers.