UnitedHealth Group has just announced the closure of its Optum Virtual Care telehealth business, signaling a shift within the company’s healthcare delivery model. Employees were informed of this decision last Thursday (April 18), with some being notified that their last day with the company would be in July, as reported by Seeking Alpha referencing Endpoints News.

Upon reaching out for clarification, a spokesperson for UnitedHealth Group responded by highlighting the organization’s commitment to supporting affected team members during this transition. The company aims to provide job placement resources and is exploring opportunities to deploy individuals into available roles within the enterprise.

In an emailed statement, the company emphasized that while Optum Virtual Care will cease operations, virtual care remains integral to their comprehensive healthcare delivery model. The statement outlined the enterprise’s dedication to offering patients a robust network of providers for virtual urgent, primary, and specialty care services, aligning with the evolving preferences of the people they serve. They added, “Virtual care has been and will continue to be a core part of our comprehensive, integrated care delivery model designed to provide care to people where, when and how they prefer,”

Optum Virtual Care, which provided 24/7 virtual visits with board-certified physicians and nationally certified nurse practitioners across all 50 states, was a cornerstone of UnitedHealth Group’s telehealth offerings. However, industry trends and consumer behaviors have shifted.

According to a PYMNTS Intelligence report from May 2022, telehealth usage had declined from the peak observed during 2020 and 2021. By July of that year, consumer participation in telehealth appointments had stabilized between 30% and 40% monthly, with more individuals returning to in-person doctor visits following the pandemic.

The decline in telehealth usage was not unique to UnitedHealth Group. Amwell, another prominent telehealth provider, reported a decrease in telehealth visits in 2023 compared to the previous year. This decline was attributed to a milder flu season in 2023, contrasting with the early and severe flu season experienced in 2022.

The decision to close Optum Virtual Care goes with UnitedHealth Group’s strategic review of its service offerings to adapt to changing market dynamics and consumer preferences. Despite this shift, the company remains committed to leveraging virtual care as a key component of its healthcare services, aiming to provide flexible and accessible care options to meet the needs of patients nationwide.