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Q&A: How Virtual Blue Is Changing the Way We Navigate Health Care

A health benefits plan designed to make life simpler.

by Ashleigh Norris and Anne Neubauer

This story is also available in Spanish.

Coordinating one’s medical care is frustratingly time-consuming, whether sorting through different providers to find the right one, navigating long lead times for appointments, or waiting for test results or input on critical questions.

Unfortunately, this isn’t a unique experience — most U.S. adults (65%) say managing health care is overwhelming and lengthy, often resulting in delayed care, which can impact health outcomes and financially strain patients.  

It doesn’t need to be this way.

The Virtual Blue health benefits plan from Blue Shield of California offers members easy-to-access, integrated care through a team of virtual primary, behavioral, and specialist healthcare professionals who offer virtual appointments within an average of just three days. Members also have in-person care options when needed or preferred.

This is critical at a time when accessing care is a challenge across the industry. In a post-appointment survey of Virtual Blue members, 63% said that if virtual care was not available, they would have either avoided or delayed care, or gone to emergency or urgent care instead. Opting for the emergency room can cost at least 4x as much as other outpatient care.

To help members more easily navigate their care, Virtual Blue offers access to health coaches, who are there to make life simpler. The member’s coach sits at the center of their integrated team, coordinating a seamless care experience by helping with in-person and virtual appointment scheduling, pre-appointment readiness, post-appointment follow-up and more.

In the first year since its launch, Virtual Blue is already showing some promising early results, including a virtual physician Net Promoter Score (NPS) of 96 out of 100, measured by post-visit surveys. NPS is a standard metric for overall satisfaction.

But it goes beyond the numbers. A few Blue Shield employees who helped build Virtual Blue, and are now members of the plan themselves, shared insights about their experiences and why they’re excited about this innovative health care option: 

Peter Long

How is Virtual Blue different from other plans?  

Navi Mudahar, director, Health Transformation Acceleration at Blue Shield: Virtual Blue delivers health equity with a model that enables all members to attain their full health potential, regardless of their race, ethnicity, gender, disability or geography. We prioritize health equity in Virtual Blue by partnering with a medical group that delivers 40% BIPOC physicians and provides a care team that offers a personalized care experience through direct and consistent contact with the member.

Peter Long, executive vice president, Strategy and Health Solutions at Blue Shield: With Virtual Blue, I don't have to log into four or five different apps — one for behavioral health, one to see a specialist, one to see my health plan benefits. Virtual Blue takes all the value from the ecosystem of virtual care solutions and brings it into one integrated platform and delivery model.

Will Headshot - Color
Will Phelps

Are there any Virtual Blue benefits that especially stand out to you? 

Will Phelps, product strategist at Blue Shield: The $0 virtual care co-pays make a difference, and the whole care experience is very easy. I just log in, select a time, and book an appointment with my clinician. I never ask, "What will this cost me?" I can seek counsel with no out-of-pocket cost before any other decisions are made. I can also connect with a virtual care team that understands my background, choosing doctors based on criteria like gender, race, experience, language or expertise with the LGBTQIA+ community.

Peter Long: This is health care that works for me. It's health care that lives in my back pocket that I can access anytime. It's a health plan that delivers the right care at the right time and place. It takes out the hassle of navigating a complicated system, making decisions by myself, or using Google or other avenues. I can make an informed decision with a team of professionals who are there to help guide my care.

Navi Headshot square
Navi Mudahar

How have Virtual Blue health coaches made a difference in your care journey? 

Will Phelps: The coach is a key part of the health team, helping navigate post-visit follow-ups, choose the right in-network provider, schedule virtual and in-person appointments, set up next-step reminders and more. In my case, they transferred my records to my dermatologist before my appointment, so the doctor already had my information from the start and could provide a continuous level of care.

Navi Mudahar: As soon as my virtual appointment ended, a health coach called me and asked, "How did it go? Did you get everything you needed? Do you have any questions?" Everything was great, but I needed to figure out where to go for my labs. My coach jumped into action right away — within minutes, she sent me an email with a list of all the labs in my network.

Learn more about Virtual Blue here. Commercial groups interested in offering Virtual Blue to employees can visit here.


Watch Virtual Blue Overview and Member Testimonials

Virtual Blue video screenshot