What is Virtual Primary Care (VPC)?

VPC is a new genre of primary care. It is an ongoing relationship patients have with the same doctors, that offers cost-effective care conveniently delivered online via a secure, HIPAA-compliant mobile and web app.

VPC’s main mode of communication and problem solving is via messaging, photos, health data, phone, and video. This is compared to traditional PCPs who use appointments, office conversations, and per-visit medical bills to communicate and problem solve.

VPC doctors order tests, prescribe medication, and own a patient’s progress over time.

VPC is an always-on communication channel between doctor and patient. Either can communicate with one another at any time. This means a VPC doctor can manage situations differently than traditional PCPs. VPC doctors can say “I have a feeling you’ve got x, but I’m going to check back in in 4 hours to see how you’re doing and we’ll take it from there.”

VPC doctors can diagnose and manage ~95% of conditions a traditional PCP can manage. Because VPC doctors can order lab or imaging tests, communicate with you on an hourly basis (if needed), prescribe medication, and maintain a relationship with you over time, this offsets the value of an in-person physical exam. The vast majority of diagnoses are not made via a physical exam, but by taking a thorough history by asking the right targeted questions and ordering the right tests to confirm suspicions.

VPCs can diagnose and treat ~70% of primary care health conditions without referring for an in-person visit. This is on par with traditional PCPs who refer to specialists ~30% of the time, after they’ve charged for the visit.

VPC doctors never see you in-person so they do not do physical exams. When an in-person visit is required, a referral is made to a local urgent care center, specialist, retail clinic, or ER.

VPC serves as both treatment and triage. By communicating online, instead of an office visit, VPC doctors can understand exactly who and what a patient needs without having to see them in person first. 70% of cases are diagnosed and treated without an in-person visit and 30% are referred appropriately.

VPC doctors are cost-conscious. For the sake of the patient and their employer, the technology they use has cost information baked in at every decision point for the doctor. VPC doctors can steer patients toward preferred surgical centers, medications, pharmacies, and testing centers.

VPC doctors can diagnose and treat ~1500 conditions while telehealth doctors can diagnose and treat ~30. Traditional telehealth is a 10 minute phone or video call with a random doctor who doesn’t know you, they can’t order tests, they can’t arrange complicated local care for you, and they can’t follow-up with you.

VPC is accessible 24/7/365 from anywhere in America. VPC is Netflix. Traditional PCPs are Blockbuster.

VPC doctors practice VPC full-time. VPC is not something they do on the side. They do not mix VPC with in-person care. They are 100% dedicated and focused.

VPC is transparently-priced. It is billed on a per-episode of care or a flat rate for unlimited care (no matter which pricing model is chosen, VPC can be delivered for ~$250 per year per patient).

VPC doctors are markedly less expensive than traditional PCPs, but more expensive and far more capable than telehealth. Traditional PCPs bill for every office visit and have brick and mortar overhead. Telehealth is essentially free because usage is low and the kind of conditions they treat don’t affect costs in a significant way.

VPC doctors are powered by a data-driven platform. It’s checklist and protocol-driven to make it safe, effective, and efficient.

VPC is Sherpaa. We pioneered VPC over 6 years ago and built our own technology to power this new model. If you marry TelaDoc with Direct Primary Care, you get Sherpaa. We handle anything from simple UTIs to the first point of contact for serious issues like cancer. We charge ~$20 per user per month or companies can pay on a per case basis at $100 per episode of care (episodes can last anywhere from minutes to months depending on the seriousness of the situation). No matter what, it’s a fixed fee for virtual primary care + care coordination for things that need in-person, local care. We’ve found we can solve 70% of all issues presented to us without referring for an in-person visit. We’re operating in all states, except Arkansas due to their restrictive telemedicine laws.

Further Reading

Some real life examples
Comparing Sherpaa and TelaDoc
Stats behind how Sherpaa works
Our effect on ER and urgent care usage
An overview of our technology that powers Sherpaa

For the last 10 years, I’ve built technology & services to help doctors be better doctors and patients be better patients. Founder & CEO, Sherpaa