The next level of virtual care: How innovative digital technology at Elevance Health puts exam tools in patient's hands, delivers more health information to providers

Getting care — when, where, and how you need it — is vital to achieving and maintaining good health. Virtual care has played a significant role in removing barriers to care by connecting patients with providers through telephone, video calls, and texting.

Now, it is time to adopt new digital tools that can take virtual visits to the next level — providing physicians with health information and patient data they would normally obtain with stethoscopes, tongue depressors, and other medical devices during in-person exams.

Remote exam kits containing digitally enabled tools and technologies are making it possible for people to have digital health devices in their home, conduct exams themselves anytime they need to, and transfer the data to a provider for a prompt evaluation and diagnosis. It's like extending the physician’s hand into the patient's home.

For some people, especially those with recurring illnesses, managing their health, or the health of others, requires frequent trips to see providers for in-person exams. Though physical exams are essential in many cases, the challenges and inconveniences associated with the constant back and forth routine can be difficult.

Elevance Health and our healthcare services brand, Carelon, are leveraging innovative digital technologies that advance virtual care. Elevance Health's affiliate health plans currently offer remote exam kits to eligible members. Participants receive a small, lightweight, exam kit in the mail. The kit comes with a device that has a camera and several add-on digital tools including a stethoscope adapter, an otoscope adapter for checking the ear canal, and a tongue depressor adapter. These adapters give providers the ability to see in and down the mouth and throat, which normally would not be possible in a virtual visit. The device also measures heart rate, body temperature, and other health metrics.'

The tools give physicians a more complete picture of a person's health, virtually. They can listen to sounds of the heart and lungs and see digital images and videos of the ears, throat, and skin. With this insight, physicians can provide a diagnosis and a prescription if needed.

Families benefit from being equipped to monitor and manage common conditions and connect with board certified doctors 24/7 through a mobile app. Accessing a medical examination, at the time it's needed most, can be a relief for families with young children with recurring illnesses such as ear infections, sore throats, and respiratory infections — and to anyone experiencing circumstances that make it difficult to visit a provider for a physical exam.

Erika, a member of an Elevance Health affiliated health plan, calls this innovative option for care life changing. Erika and her family live in a small town where access to care isn't convenient. They sometimes go to urgent care because it's the closest facility. Their health plan offered them the opportunity to use the remote exam kit. Erika connected virtually with a physician and described her throat pain symptoms. She used the device’s remote camera for the doctor to look down her throat. The doctor diagnosed her with strep throat and prescribed treatment. Erika says getting answers quickly reduced her stress and worry. Her husband and their young son have also used the kit.

This kind of digital-first technology, bridging the gap between virtual and in-person care, adds a critical layer to the telehealth experience. By enabling patients to provide clinically relevant exam data virtually, physicians can diagnose and treat many common conditions conveniently, efficiently, and safely.

Elevance Health is committed to enhancing the healthcare experience and addressing the most complex healthcare challenges. Through data-driven solutions that increase access to care, improve quality of care and affordability, we’re shaping a digital future in which person-centered healthcare leads to better outcomes, healthier people, and peace of mind.

Anthony Nguyen, MD, serves as chief clinical officer for Elevance Health.

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