Anthem Expands Video-Conference Doctor Visits
Apr 28 2015
A visit to the doctor is becoming as readily available as logging onto Skype to video chat with grandma.
This summer, Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield in Connecticut is expanding its "telemedicine" — a live, online video doctor visit — to include Farmington-based doctor group, ProHealth Physicians.
Anthem initially offered LiveHealth Online to customers in group plans last September, but the video conferencing doctor visit has been broadened to include customers that bought individual health plans and Medicare plans.
It works like this:
A customer can use a smartphone, tablet or computer to talk to a doctor via video. The customer downloads a LifeHealth Online mobile application for free. The cost of the visit is $49, which can be paid through a credit card or through health insurance. Anthem members use their insurance ID to log in, and the usual co-pay applies depending on their plan.
So far, Anthem has provided its customers access to medical doctors licensed to practice in Connecticut who work remotely for LiveHealth Online and are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The insurer is adding local doctor groups, such as ProHealth Physicians, which will define their own hours of availability.
The service isn't unique. Another video consultation service, Doctor on Demand, offers medical doctors available online.
The online medical visits come at a time when health care is becoming readily accessible through urgent-care facilities and other quick-service centers, such as the dozens of CVS Minute Clinics in Connecticut, or the Saint Francis FastCare at the Super Stop & Shop in Simsbury.
On Sunday nights, she gets a lot of pediatric video appointments from parents asking about pink eye, rashes or other ailments that leave parents wondering, "Can my kids go to day care?" Finkelston said.
Joanna Leach of Meriden has Anthem coverage and has used the video service twice. The first time, she had an enduring respiratory problem.
"It just decided I needed to get looked at, and I just couldn't find the right moment to get into a standard doctor's office … I remembered that we had been told that we had this service available to us," Leach said. Leach, a business IT analyst, said the online doctor wrote her a prescription to treat bronchitis with a sinus infection.
The second time, Leach called after her 7-year-old son was playing in the snow. The online doctor diagnosed it as the beginning of minor frostbite and told her to get her son into a warm bath.
"I felt like it was a little more personal even though it was on video," Leach said.
Dr. Peter Bowers, Anthem's chief medical officer, said in a statement that LiveHealth Online marks a shift in the delivery of health care by using technology to make it easier and more consumer friendly.
Dr. James Cox-Chapman, chief medical officer at ProHealth Physicians, said in a statement: "This new telemedicine service will be a significant advancement in ProHealth's mission to be a leading provider of population health management."
Read more on the Hartford Courant.