Telehealth: A New Way to Access Care After Hours
Presented by Health New England
By Dr. Laurie Gianturco
Telehealth is the use of telecommunications and information technologies to deliver clinical care, preventative services, wellness services, patient education, and other health care related services from a distance.
But what does that mean to health care members and why should they take notice?
Telehealth is transforming the way health care is delivered, expanding it beyond the traditional doctor’s office to virtual consultations over the phone and on smart devices. Members can request a phone or online video consultation with a telehealth physician to treat low-acuity medical issues such as a cold, the flu, rash, urinary tract infections, ear infections, and more.
Roughly 30% of family physicians in rural communities have embraced telehealth, according to research conducted by the Robert Graham Center. An aging population, increasing incidences of chronic disease, and rapid technology advancements are fueling growth in the market.
Health New England was the first Massachusetts health plan to offer telehealth services to its members through a company called Teladoc. Health New England began offering telehealth services to its members in August 2015 as a convenient, affordable alternative to costly emergency room visits for non-urgent care.
Teladoc providers are U.S. board-certified in internal medicine, family practice, emergency medicine, pediatrics, dermatology and behavioral health. They are U.S. residents and are licensed in Massachusetts, with an average of 20 years of practice experience. Since Teladoc was launched in 2002, they have provided 1.6 million tele-visits.
To ensure continuity of care, Teladoc providers share information from a member’s virtual visit with their Primary Care Provider (PCP) so he or she is aware of the visit and can follow up as needed. Another benefit is that a Teladoc visit typically costs a member around $40, significantly lower than the cost of visiting an urgent care center or Emergency Department.
Teladoc offers a convenient option for members who need care for occasional minor issues after hours as well as those on vacation, on a business trip or away from home. Teladoc is not intended to replace a member’s PCP for ongoing care and for managing chronic conditions.
If you have a non-urgent medical need after hours, and your health plan offers a telehealth program, it’s an option that could save you time and money while providing care coordination with your PCP.
Dr. Laurie Gianturco serves as Vice President and Chief Medical Officer of Health New England. Dr. Gianturco is board certified in radiology and nuclear medicine.