New study from Independence and the University of Pennsylvania shows benefits of telemedicine in reducing specialist consultation time

Philadelphia, PA -- Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, doctors have depended more and more on telemedicine to ensure patients get the care they need. A new study published in Telemedicine and e-Health from researchers at Independence Blue Cross (Independence) and the University of Pennsylvania shows how this technology is able to greatly reduce the time it takes for primary care doctors to consult with specialists.

In the  study, researchers looked at how long it took for primary care doctors to receive a consultation with a dermatologist after they shared a photograph of an area of concern. The time dropped from almost 84 days to under five hours. In addition, the study did not show any undue increases in utilization or cost.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has illustrated just how important it is to ensure patients have the ability to access to the care, education and support they need virtually,” said co-author Aaron Smith-McLallen, director of Health Informatics and Advanced Analytics at Independence Blue Cross. “We see a future where more and more of our members will be using digital tools to complement in-person care and are working with our provider partners to make that a reality.”

“Telemedicine offers the opportunity to accelerate health care access by getting around infrastructure barriers: namely, heavily booked dermatology practices,” said the study’s senior author, said Dr. Jules Lipoff, an assistant professor of Clinical Dermatology. “Our study provides evidence that more patients can be cared for with the same amount of resources we’re using now.”

The study was co-funded by Independence and an Innovation Grant from the Penn Medicine Center for Health Care Innovation.

About Independence Blue Cross 

Independence Blue Cross is a subsidiary of Independence Health Group, Inc. — independent licensees of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association, serving the health insurance needs of Philadelphia and southeastern Pennsylvania.

About Blue Cross Blue Shield Association

The Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association is a national federation of 35 independent, community-based and locally operated Blue Cross and Blue Shield companies that collectively provide health care coverage for one in three Americans. BCBSA provides health care insights through The Health of America Report series and the national BCBS Health Indexsm. For more information on BCBSA and its member companies, please visit We also encourage you to connect with us on Facebook, check out our videos on YouTube and follow us on Twitter.

The Blue Cross Blue Shield Association is an association of 35 independent, locally operated Blue Cross and/or Blue Shield companies.