The number is miniscule compared to the total membership at Excellus BlueCross BlueShield, but more consumers covered by the plan are using digital doctor visits, Excellus says.
Excellus, which provides healthcare coverage for 1.5 million plan members in upstate New York, says plan members increased their number of digital doctor visits about 188% between 2016 and 2018, from 5,137 to 14,790. “Extrapolating our experience to the state as a whole, we estimate that New Yorkers made more than 180,000 telemedicine visits last year, leading us to the conclusion that this additional method of receiving care is quickly emerging,” says Excellus senior vice president and corporate medical director Stephen Cohen.
A new survey of about 2,000 consumers by Excellus around the first of the year reveals that about
Other survey findings include:
- Among those who have used telemedicine, 93% rated the experience favorably.
- 43% of all respondents said they would consider using telemedicine in the future.
- 78% of telemedicine visits made by a sample of health plan members in 2018 were related to medical treatments, with 22% of visits for behavioral health services.
- About 4% of plan members reported that telehealth helped them avoid using a hospital emergency room. Had the telemedicine option not been available, 55% of respondents said they would have used an urgent care center, 26% would have seen their primary care physician and 10% said they would have delayed getting care.
“The ideal method of getting care is to see your physician,” Cohen says. “We suspect a number of telemedicine visits taking place are occurring because patients cannot immediately get appointments for minor conditions and feel they need to address or want to address their issues quickly; otherwise they would wait.”