A Blue Cross plan is expanding telehealth—and making it more mobile.
Capital BlueCross, which serves 21 counties in central Pennsylvania, is adding behavioral health to its two-year-old telehealth program. The telehealth program, offered via services from American Well, also now includes a bigger list of mental health providers: Capital’s own network of behavioral health clinicians and American Wells network of mental and behavioral providers.
Since launching telehealth in January 2016, online doctor visits have grown exponentially, says Capital BlueCross chief medical officer Jennifer Chambers. In 2017, Capital BlueCross conducted about 1,500 telehealth visits and, in the first five months of this year, has already logged more than 2,000 online visits. “We are reaching a tipping point,” Chambers says. “Demand is up.”
BlueCross has offered telehealth for walk-in clinic types of medical issues but is in the process of expanding telehealth, beginning with behavioral condition such as depression. Seeing a behavioral specialist via telehealth is easier, more convenient, private and faster for some patients, Chambers says. “Not everyone wants to go to an office,” Chambers says.
Behavioral telehealth visits also may include counseling. Going forward, Capital BlueCross is researching other new telehealth services such as for dermatology, prenatal and other conditions. Today, women make up about 60% of the plan’s telehealth base. What patients pay as a co-pay for a telehealth visit—including for a behavioral condition—varies according each member’s level of benefits “but is generally less than a face-to-face visit,” the plan says.
To make telehealth more mobile and accessible, Capital BlueCross updated its virtual care app with new features that let plan members research providers—including for behavioral health—read ratings and reviews and schedule and conduct digital visits.
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