Highmark -- a Pittsburgh-based Blue Cross Blue Shield insurer -- has partnered with telehealth provider Teladoc to launch a telehealth pilot program for 10,000 of its members, InformationWeek reports.
Participating Highmark members must register online, create a Teladoc account and complete a medical history disclosure form. The information is used to create an electronic health record.
After completing the form, members experiencing minor illnesses -- such as colds, scrapes or nausea -- can request a consultation with a U.S.-based, board-certified physician via telephone or online video consultation. The average time that participating members wait to receive a call back from a physician is 22 minutes.
During the consultation, a physician can review a member's medical history and update the patient's EHR with details of the current consultation. The physician also can prescribe medication that can be sent to the member's pharmacy.
Each telehealth consultation costs $38 and has no time limit.
Comments on Program, Future Plans
Highmark officials said they hope the program will help reduce the need for members with minor illnesses to visit hospital emergency departments (Lewis, InformationWeek, 4/11).
Mary Goessler, a medical director at Highmark, in a statement said, "Telehealth is critical to transforming health care delivery," adding, "We need to make sure our members get the right care in the right setting, and we believe this service can be an alternative to care in an emergency room or urgent care setting for those persons with minor, non-emergency medical problems" (Mamula, Pittsburgh Business Times, 3/27).
In the third quarter of 2012, Highmark plans to offer telehealth consultations to all members as a covered benefit (Pearson, CMIO, 4/15).