Virtual: FIRST…..

These days, everyone who is anyone in health care is trying out various instantiations of virtual first. Virtual first is rapidly emerging as a candidate to replace, revise, or reinvigorate health services and health products concepts that have found a home under the label digital health for roughly the past two decades.

“Virtual first health” has been fashioned as the cockpit of a conceptual vehicle that can convey passengers both clinical (from primary care to cancer treatment monitoring) and financial (seen in the emergence of a handful of virtual first health benefit plans). It’s not a phrase on every health care decision-maker or consumer’s lips – yet – but it’s not a phrase you will be able to ignore or dismiss much longer.

What IS Virtual First Health Care?
Some will insist it’s too soon to bind the phrase virtual first to a particular definition – but we are not among that some.

We’ve seen, and in numerous cases admire, the exertions of others. An organization named the Digital Medical Society offers a representative example in its definition of virtual first care:

“[Virtual first care] is medical care for individuals or a community accessed through digital interactions where possible, guided by a clinician, and integrated into a person’s everyday life.”

While it may appear innocuous, there are several conceptual paths broken in that formulation – paths intended to be followed by the emerging clinical and financial enterprises that will operationalize virtual first care –  and our blueprint of an extensive analysis of virtual first health care includes room to trace those paths in some detail.

Who does – and Who Might Do – Virtual First Health Care?

An attention-getting number of health care enterprises, both long-established and newly minted (or funded), have already anted up table stakes for the early hands of the emerging  virtual first health care game. Some of these firms are in the business of delivering health treatment services and/or products (behavioral health clinicians; pharmaceutical manufacturers;  physical therapists); some focus on the financing of health treatment charges (insurers; information technology developers) Our sampler of some of these firms includes several names you’ll recognize:

Clinical Financial
American Well Maven Health Aon
BetterHelp Sesame Care Centene
Carena Truclinic CIGNA
CloudVisit Virtual Therapy Connect CVS/Aetna
DoctorOnDemand VSee Trustmark
eVisit WeCounsel United Healthcare


There’s more to know about these and dozens of other firms that will vie to be first in virtual first health care. And of course there are other participants in the virtual first care environment whose responses will figure in the concept’s evolution – for example, large, self-funded employer health plans. We’ve begun digging, and plan to share what we’re learning as we accumulate actionable intelligence.

What Are Virtual First Enterprises Doing?

The devil is, as always, in the details – and, as always, the details tend to be the most dynamic, the most elusive, the most pivotal intelligence to acquire. We’re discovering and developing sources of virtual first intelligence in order to be actually among the first to know when, where & how this market will move.

What Does Virtual First Health Care Mean For You?

Whether or not you/your health enterprise intends to be a leader, a competitor, a supporter, a supplier, or a contrarian, you’ll be expected to know what virtual first care is, who the players are, whether and how its emergence impacts your business’s fortunes.

We plan to help industry leaders in a collaborative manner navigate virtual first care by providing editorial insights, and offering an ecosystem to help clients build new capabilities and grow their knowledge and experience base in the next generation of health care.

We welcome your feedback and insights as we determine the best medium to share this intelligence as we launch our database in January 2022.