IMPACT announces new definition of virtual first care at ATA 2021

The collaborative dedicated to expanding access to high-quality, evidence-based virtual care provides needed clarity to emerging sector

Boston, Mass., June 15, 2021 – As the U.S. emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic, members of IMPACT, an industry coalition led by the American Telemedicine Association (ATA) and Digital Medicine Society (DiMe), today announced a unifying definition for virtual first care (V1C), and related resources at ATA 2021. Part of the assets include vignettes from six virtual first care providers illustrating the promise of virtual first care in practice across emergency care, respiratory medicine, cardiac care, sleep medicine.

In recent months, leading health insurance companies have launched their own virtual first plans and extended in-network coverage to virtual first mental health providers. Yet, this emerging sector promising reimagined healthcare delivery experience has lacked a clear definition – until now.

“Confusion about how virtual first care differs from traditional telehealth, in addition to the questionable quality of some digital health apps, has undermined trust in this novel approach to healthcare,” said DiMe Executive Director Jennifer Goldsack. “But virtual first care is healthcare; it adheres to all applicable laws and standards of care, making it worthy of our trust. IMPACT’s proposed definition lays the much-needed foundation for a clear and unified path forward and will unlock numerous benefits across the digital health field.”

Virtual first care also offers enormous promise for improved clinical and health economic outcomes, enhanced access, and better overall patient experience because it:

  • Can be initiated anywhere at any time,
  • Allows for the intentional selection of care setting based on each individual’s clinical needs and preferences, and
  • Is a complete solution for every patient taking the necessary next steps in their health journey.

This is the first deliverable from the IMPACT initiative, whose members include representatives from digital-health start-ups, health-insurance companies, big tech, investors, and trade associations. They are currently collaborating on a number of other projects including creating a model for contracting between payers and virtual-first providers, and developing frameworks of success for quality, outcomes, and value assessment for virtual-first care.

DiMe Chief Operating Officer Claire Meunier is the executive lead for the IMPACT initiative and notes the importance of a clear definition of virtual first care as foundational for these initiatives and the sector itself.

“It’s impossible to optimize a reimbursement model for virtual first care, for example, without first being able to define it,” says Meunier. “Our V1C definition goes beyond a simple statement to highlight the key characteristics and components of successful virtual fist care solutions. It provides a common language to power collaboration between providers, payers, patients, and policymakers to optimize virtual first care and improve lives.”

“Virtual first care is digital health in practice,” added IMPACT Co-Founder Don Jones. “IMPACT uniquely convenes organizations from across the ecosystem that view virtual first care as their primary mission. Members of IMPACT are already demonstrating patient and provider satisfaction, as well as pathways to cost savings and improved outcomes. With a clear definition for the field, we have paved the way for more fit-for-purpose reimbursement models and opportunities to demonstrate the value of virtual first in practice.”

“This year marks ATA’s 25th annual conference and never before have we chronicled such progress, innovation and disruption as we have this year. Yet, there is much more work to be done, on many fronts. Telehealth has finally made it into our healthcare lexicon, but we are just starting to better understand the most effective applications of virtual care technologies,” said ATA CEO Ann Mond Johnson. “As we move towards a two-channel care delivery system, including in-person and virtual care, the next phase of evolution will be to add virtual first care, to allow for the home delivery of quality care throughout an individual’s health journey.”

About IMPACT: Hosted by the Digital Medicine Society (DiMe) and the American Telemedicine Association (ATA), IMPACT is the pre-competitive collaboration of leading digital health companies, investors, payers, patient experts, and consultants dedicated to supporting virtual-first medical organizations and their commitment to patient-centric care. Learn more at

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Lauren Bolles

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