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When patients can’t get into the doctor’s office, but need medical attention

Telehealth offers options for patients who seek medical attention for common ailments but can’t get in to see a doctor. Recognizing the need, and the opportunity, health care providers are increasingly embracing telehealth.

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts’ members can now use their smartphone, tablet or computer for a real-time, secure telehealth visit with a doctor or therapist. For eligible members, telehealth is offered through the Blue Cross provider network and through the national medical network associated with its technology partner, American Well, an independent company.

"We live in an on-demand world. Many people are used to using their phones for just about anything. The new telehealth benefit helps members see a doctor when they want, where they want, and receive the expert information they need," says Pat Gilligan, executive vice president of Sales, Marketing and Product at Blue Cross. "We are trying to make the health care experience easy, convenient, and affordable. It’s all about putting our members first."

How it works

Whether it’s after hours or a patient doesn’t feel like getting out of bed, that patient can see a doctor from the comfort of home. It’s easy as well as convenient and can help avoid unnecessary trips to the emergency room. According to experts, a telehealth visit is simple and secure.

Members can check with their medical practice to see if it uses telehealth or use Blue Cross’ Find a Doctor Tool to see which providers offer telehealth.

The new benefit expands Blue Cross’ use of telehealth. Earlier this year, Blue Cross began offering telehealth nurse care managers. The program resulted in rave reviews from both members and clinicians.

Lisa Johnson, a Blue Cross member, uses telehealth with the nurse care management team. The team works with her to regulate her blood sugar and improve her diet. She uses Blue Cross’ application on her cell phone to connect with the team every few weeks to update them on her doctor visits and labs.

"Telehealth makes it easy for me to connect with my care team, who have caring hearts and are concerned about my health. They are encouraging and uplifting; they make me feel like extended family. My condition has definitely improved since I began using telehealth, and I would definitely recommend it to friends and family," says Johnson.

Direct pay members and all employers who are insured by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts will have this benefit automatically, and it will be an option that self-insured employers can choose for their employees.

According to Blue Cross, telehealth is most commonly used for cough, sinus infection, sore throat, pinkeye, cold, flu, depression, anxiety, in-home medication management (local providers only), and post-surgical follow-up (local providers only).

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