; SC BlueCross Opens Access to Specialty Care Through Telemedicine
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Press Release

SC BlueCross Opens Access to Specialty Care Through Telemedicine

August 15, 2013

Columbia, S.C. – BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina and BlueChoice® HealthPlan of South Carolina are increasing access to specialty care for members in underserved areas with the launch this month of a telemedicine program.

The companies will be able to receive claims for securely provided telemedicine consultations. Initially, the program will cover three specialties: high-risk pregnancies (maternal-fetal medicine), strokes (vascular neurology) and mental health (psychiatry).

Telemedicine claims from these specialties will be uniquely coded when sent to BlueCross or BlueChoice®. Later phases may include other specialties.

Telemedicine is the provision of health care across a distance. Delivery typically involves two-way, real-time videoconferencing by a referring facility – usually a local physician or emergency room staff at a small hospital – and including the patient for a “face-to-face” consultation with a specialist in a referral center. Telemedicine requires secure network connections with active firewalls and encryption modes that meet federal health care privacy laws.

BlueCross and BlueChoice network providers from anywhere in South Carolina may access the specialty providers contracted to provide telemedicine consultations.

Members who could benefit from the new service include those who are insured or in group plans administered by BlueCross or BlueChoice. They include federal employees, State Health Plan members, and people who hold BlueCross insurance from another state but receive medical treatment in South Carolina.

Here’s an example of how telemedicine can benefit patients. A person having stroke symptoms seeks help at a rural hospital emergency room. If the emergency room staff is not equipped to do rapid stroke diagnosis, telemedicine may allow a quick consultation with a specialist in another city. The specialist then could make a diagnosis and recommend treatment. Timeliness is crucial in the case of strokes: Clot-busting medication that may reduce long-term disability for the most common type of stroke is effective only if taken within three hours of the first symptom.

“Our intent is to improve access for our members in rural areas and small towns to specialty care and mental health providers, who tend to be in the state’s metropolitan areas. We also expect this to increase cost efficiency, reduce transportation barriers, improve quality of care and communication among providers and our members, and in some cases to save lives,” said Dr. Laura Long, BlueCross’ chief medical officer and vice president.

This is one of many initiatives BlueCross is undertaking to lead and support new models of health care in South Carolina and to support the Triple Aim of enhanced patient experience, improved outcomes and reduced cost.

BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina
Headquartered in Columbia, S.C., and operating in South Carolina for more than 65 years, BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina (www.SouthCarolinaBlues.com) is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association. The only South Carolina-owned and operated health insurance carrier, BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina comprises more than 40 companies involved in health insurance services, U.S. DoD health program and Medicare contracts, other insurance and employee benefits services, and a philanthropic foundation that funds programs to improve health care and access to health care for South Carolinians.

BlueChoice HealthPlan
Headquartered in Columbia, S.C., BlueChoice HealthPlan of South Carolina (www.bluechoicesc.com) also is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association.

The Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association is a national federation of 37 independent, community-based and locally-operated Blue Cross and Blue Shield companies that collectively provide healthcare coverage for nearly 100 million members – one-in-three Americans.  For more information on the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association and its member companies, please visit bcbs.com. We encourage you to connect with us on Facebook, check out our videos on YouTube, follow us on Twitter and check out The BCBS Blog, for up-to-date information about BCBSA.