Ireland’s largest healthcare insurer is in discussions with the ICGP about increasing the type of GP services for which it provides coverage, as well as launching direct primary care provision, the Medical Independent (MI) can reveal.
Ms Anne O’Connor, Managing Director at Vhi Health and Wellbeing, said it is in talks with the ICGP about developing a chronic disease management pathway in primary care. The pathway for its members would be like the HSE programmes in place for medical card/GP visit card patients.
She added that Vhi wanted to work with GPs and not “replace” them. “So we’re really trying to get into the nuts and bolts of primary care, but do it in a way that adds value, not actually strip anything away from anyone.”
The ICGP told MI it has had “some very early discussions on this matter” which will continue into 2024.
Vhi is also trialling provision of in-person GP services in addition to the online and phone GP and nurse services already provided.
This is initially being piloted on a small scale for some corporate members that have recruited short- and medium-term staff who are unable to access GP and primary care services locally. It will operate in the same manner as the existing reimbursement model.
“The feedback from some of our corporate members is that their staff can’t get GPs and in particular we have a lot of tech companies bringing people in without access to a GP,” Ms O’Connor said.
After a trial period, the potential of introducing such services for the company’s wider membership will be assessed.
“We [also] have many people presenting to our urgent care clinics because they cannot access the GP. And we are now at a point where we are having to look at that,” Ms O’Connor commented. She stressed that “we’re really not in the business of competing” with GPs.