Telehealth is a lifeline during a pandemic, even for routine care
Telehealth has become a literal lifeline for people needing everything from screening for COVID-19 symptoms to behavioral health sessions. With a rapidly spreading outbreak, millions of Americans under orders to stay home and the need to protect healthcare workers from coming into contact with people who are sick, technology has become a critical component of maintaining regular, safe access to healthcare.
Expanding telehealth access across the country
Blue Cross and Blue Shield companies have collectively expanded both coverage and access to telehealth services to help members receive appropriate, quality care without leaving home. Some health plans are offering additional telehealth resources to meet specific needs in their regions.
- BlueCross & BlueShield of Rhode Island will cover the cost of specialist phone triage so that patients can avoid an office visit if unnecessary.
- Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina is encouraging more primary care physicians to offer telehealth, paying them the same amount as for in-person visits.
- And Florida Blue offering free behavioral telehealth for members of the community, not just health plan members, to help people coping with the emotional impact of isolation and crisis. is
Staying home and using telehealth could save a life
During a pandemic, telehealth is more than just a convenience. Choosing to stay home and use phone or video for a doctor visit could save a life. “The health and safety of our members is always our top priority,” says Von Nguyen, MD, Vice President of Clinical Operations and Innovations at BC North Carolina. “By encouraging the use of telehealth, we are helping our members stay home if need be with the goal of keeping them and others well.” Nguyen, who, in his prior job, was part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention teams responding to cholera, Zika, and other outbreaks, says that anyone who is concerned about having possibly been exposed to COVID-19 should call their primary care doctor first. Telehealth may be the best option for doctors to determine the appropriate next steps.