The current pandemic has led to telehealth being an approved, and often preferred, modality for healthcare delivery, with physicians and other health professionals seeing 50 to 175 times the number of patients via telehealth than they did before the pandemic. The broad move towards virtual care is expectedto continue to expand, ushering a profound transformation in the delivery ofcare. McKinsey predicts that approximately $250 billion, or about 20% of allMedicare, Medicaid and Commercial OP, office and home health spend, could potentially be virtualized[1].

However, the tremendous potential of virtual care exposes the unfortunate reality that a substantial segment of the US population lacks the means to access virtual care due to lack of cost-effective high-speed connections, adequate devices, often due to the complexity of configuring devices for telehealth use. This further exacerbates the healthcare Digital Divide and negatively affects health outcomes for an already vulnerable population.

While the government has a number of initiatives to address this issue, these solutions typically take a long time, leaving many people unnecessarily exposed.

Therefore, healthcare payors are taking matters in their own hands; they are providing their at-risk and in-need members with telehealth devices with bundled mobile data which are enabling them to receive telehealth-based care.

Two major use cases are emerging:

-      Member care and engagement: a telehealth mobile device, configured with the payor’s virtual care solutions and bundled with mobile data is sent to the patient. The device use is restricted as specified by the payor, meaning that the mobile data can only be used as approved by the payor – typically for medical visits, mental health applications and wellness related activities. The patient keeps the device as long as needed for the delivery of care.  When no longer needed, the device can be returned to the payor and repurposed for another member.

-      One-time virtual visits: a payor sometimes needs a member to engage in a specific telehealth visit – such as anAnnual Wellness Visit or STARs related gap closure check-in.  In this case, a pre-configured smart device, pre-loaded with mobile data sufficient for a virtual medical visit (and restricted) is “lent” to the patient or member for one-time use. The device is returned to the payor, to be re-deployed for another member.

These new approaches are enabling health plans to create a new digital front door to healthcare for their members and are broadening their reach within their membership. While the use of telehealth at scale is relatively new, early indications are that it is being widely adopted, and that it is indeed removing barriers to receiving necessary care, most notably in behavioral health.


By broadening access to virtual care, payors are strengthening member engagement and improving member health, ultimately leading to better happier and healthier members and strong ROI for the health plan.