Telemedicine's Expanding Options

Scott Mace, for HealthLeaders Media , April 29, 2014

Spurred by new laws and policies that permit online teleconsultations, both payers and providers are exploring ways to enable patients' access to care in ways that also meet growing industry demands.

This article appears in the April 2014 issue of HealthLeaders magazine.

Spurred by interest from insurance companies and employers, physicians are ramping up their ability to make an increasing number of patient encounters online or over the phone.

"We need to meet consumers where they are, knowing that often consumers aren't able to get to the doctor during the workday or on the weekends, and they end up going to the emergency room or the urgent care room for inappropriate use of care, and so we have a service that truly gets to the consumer 24 hours, seven days a week, 365 days of the year, and it's a real doctor every single time," says Matt Marek, vice president of product and marketing at 2.6-million-member BlueCross and BlueShield of Minnesota.

"We believe this is the next generation of retail care that we saw at Target and MinuteClinic years ago, where we're truly trying to serve the consumer beyond normal doctor hours," Marek says.

HealthLeaders Media Insider: Telemedicine

Using technology from American Well, BCBS offers high-definition video consultation between its members and a physician with an average wait time of less than two minutes, Marek says. The service never costs more than $45, and patients are reimbursed by the health plan like a claim. Some employers are even considering moving to a $0 copay to encourage employees to use online care.

Although BCBS of Minnesota has offered this service since 2010, use of the service is now growing 200% per year, and BCBS expects that growth to accelerate this year. BCBS of Minnesota is also expanding the coverage it offers to employers in its service area. After initially serving only employees in Minnesota, BCBS of Minnesota's Online Care Anywhere service now permits employees of those companies to utilize the service in 46 states and the District of Columbia, Marek says. This makes Online Care Anywhere the fastest-growing service in BCBS of Minnesota's set of service offerings.

Spurring the move are liberalized laws and policies throughout the United States that now permit online teleconsultations. "There are many states today that now allow online care or telemedicine to exist, where three, four years ago we never thought we would get as far as we have," Marek says.

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1 comments on "Telemedicine's Expanding Options"

Dr. S Khattab (5/1/2014 at 11:12 PM)
Very interesting attempt to help the process of providing for the ill. However, it is not clear what is being provided from the following list of Medical Services: Engaging the patient, inviting patients to share their medical history in confidence, taking a FULL history, more engaging, sharing the analysis by provider to patient, suggesting methods of physically examining the patient over the waves, recommending a path to solve the diagnostic problem, ordering diagnostic tests or images, more engagement regarding the tests when results are available, recommending the next step whether in the form of more counseling or specialist input, discussing a treatment plan or if incurable just wait and your illness will spontaneously disappear, a different plan of action, prescribing a remedy without physical exam, following up on the advice provided to the patient and being responsive as well as responsible to the patient, recommending a return tele-medical visit to discuss patients progress with the tele-medical recommendations.




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