CareFirst unveils virtual-first primary care practice

Baltimore-based health insurer CareFirst has launched a telehealth-focused primary care practice

Dubbed CloseKnit, the practice offers an array of virtual care services, including preventive and urgent care, behavioral and mental health, care coordination and insurance navigation, through an application. Its care teams include physicians, physician assistants, nurse practitioners, mental health specialists and care coordinators.

The care teams treat patients virtually and offer referrals to local providers for in-person care when needed. CloseKnit’s care navigators help patients understand their options and the available tools for finding providers.

“We designed the practice to meet and manage a patient’s evolving healthcare needs in ways that work for them — virtually or in person,” said Mary Jane Favazza, CEO of the new practice, in an email. “CloseKnit enhances services for our members who have a desire for greater convenience, transparency and flexibility, creating a holistic experience.”

CloseKnit was designed by CareFirst’s innovation and investment arm Healthworx to help fill gaps in care for health plan members who do not have a primary care provider, which according to Favazza is about 40%.

“Our transformation of healthcare means we’re looking at every aspect of the system that impacts our members and their ability to access quality care and taking action to make positive change for them,” said Brian D. Pieninck, president and CEO of CareFirst, in a news release. “We created CloseKnit because people deserve an enhanced, modern care experience that meets their expectations, needs and preferences for choice in how they connect and experience care.”

Initially, CloseKnit will only be available to CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield commercial members across the country, but the practice has plans to expand. The app is available for download in the Apple and Google stores.

Though the use of telehealth has fallen in recent months, it is still far above usage levels prior to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Telehealth visits made up 4.5% of all claims in June, down from 13% in April 2020, according to data by FAIR Health. Pre-pandemic, telehealth visits accounted for less than 1% of all claims.

Payers have responded to the rise in demand for telehealth in various ways, including by launching telehealth-first insurance products.

Photo credit: Sorbetto, Getty Images