"Beyond Just a Supplement": Administrators' Visions for the Future of Virtual Primary Care Services

J Am Board Fam Med. 2022 May-Jun;35(3):527-536. doi: 10.3122/jabfm.2022.03.210479.


Purpose: The COVID-19 pandemic resulted in unprecedented adoption and implementation of virtual primary care services, and little is known about whether and how virtual care services will be provided after the pandemic ends. We aim to identify how administrators at health care organizations perceive the future of virtual primary care services.

Methods: In March-April of 2021, we conducted semistructured qualitative phone interviews with administrators at 17 health care organizations that ranged from multi-state nonfederal delivery systems to single-site primary care practices. Organizations differed in size, structure, ownership, and geography. We explore how health care administrators anticipate their organization will offer virtual primary care services after the COVID-19 pandemic subsides.

Results: All interviewed administrators expected virtual primary care services to persist after the pandemic. We categorize expected impact of future virtual services as limited (n = 4); targeted to a narrow set of clinical encounters (n = 5); and a major shift in primary care delivery (n = 8). The underlying motivation expressed by administrators for providing virtual care services was to remain financially stable and competitive. This motivation can be seen in the 3 main goals described for their anticipated use of virtual services: (1) optimizing medical services; (2) enhancing the patient experience; and (3) increasing loyalty among patients.

Conclusions: Health care organizations are considering how virtual primary care services can be used to improve patient outcomes, access to care, and convenience of care. To implement and sustain virtual primary care services, health care organizations will need long-term support from regulators and payers.

Keywords: Health Policy; Pandemics; Primary Health Care; Telemedicine.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Administrative Personnel
  • COVID-19* / epidemiology
  • Delivery of Health Care
  • Humans
  • Pandemics
  • Primary Health Care