Guest Editorial by Laurie Gianturco, M.D., Vice President and Chief Medical Officer, Health New England
From the Summer 2016 issue of For Your Benefit file size 3MB newsletter
Telehealth is the use of telecommunications and information technologies to deliver clinical care, preventative services, wellness services, patient education, and other health and healthcare related services from a distance. What does that mean for you as a health care member and why should you 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 even webcams. You can request a phone or online video consultation with a telehealth physician to treat non-emergency medical issues such as a cold, the flu, rash, urinary tract infections, ear infections and more.
Twenty-nine percent 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 is the first Massachusetts health plan to offer telehealth services to its members through a program called Teladoc, which it launched in August 2015. Health New England made its decision to begin offering telehealth services to give members convenient, affordable alternatives 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. To ensure continuity of care, Teladoc providers share information from your virtual visit with your Primary Care Provider so he or she is aware of the visit and can follow up as needed. Another benefit is that a Teladoc copay of $20 is significantly lower than a $100 emergency room copay or up to $60 copay at an urgent care facility.
Teladoc offers a convenient option for members who need care during afterhours as well as those on vacation, on a business trip or away from home. Teladoc is intended for low acuity conditions such as a rash, nasal congestion or allergies. It is not intended to replace your primary care provider for ongoing care and 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. She is currently a member of the executive committee of the Massachusetts Radiological Society and has twice been selected as one of the “Best Doctors in America.”
This information provided by the Group Insurance Commission.