Press Releases

Monday, September 10, 2018

Diverse offering of virtual health options increases access for Highmark members

PITTSBURGH (Sept. 10, 2018) — Between family, work, and life's daily commitments, it's never a convenient time to fall under the weather and be forced to rearrange a hectic calendar to squeeze in a doctor's visit.

Highmark Inc. members, through Allegheny Health Network (AHN) or with the help of partners like Doctor on Demand, American Well (AmWell) and Teladoc, can rest assured knowing that they have increased access to leading clinicians through virtual health offerings. In other words, "the doctor can see you now" is being redefined as a viable option for members' smartphones, tablets and computers.

Virtual health covered by Highmark includes primary care services to treat non-urgent conditions like coughs, sinus infections or sore throats. In addition, virtual health includes teledermatology, through partner DermatologistOnCall, which includes a photo upload feature. Members also can make behavioral health appointments with real-time video visits.

"In today's digitally-driven world, telemedicine is a natural evolution for health care delivery, providing an opportunity for members to see a doctor when they might not have done so otherwise," said Dr. Caesar DeLeo, Highmark Health senior medical director. "Our commitment to virtual health stems from its ability to improve wait times, reduce unnecessary trips to the emergency room and expand our network with world-class physicians. Fundamentally, it's about making it easier for our members to get the right care, at the right time."

Virtual health visits continue to be cited as a growing trend, especially when taking into account the shortage of primary care physicians and the propensity to put off a doctor's visit. According to a recent study by AmWell, nearly 70 percent of Americans will delay going to the doctor citing reasons like they "thought the problem would go away on its own" or "it takes too long to see a doctor or nurse."

Further substantiating this trend, Highmark has seen a year-over-year uptick of members taking advantage of virtual health offerings.

"Virtual visits are convenient — no worries about driving or traffic, no need to reschedule appointments every time something comes up that would prevent you from getting to my office in person," said Joan Kaylor, a Pennsylvania licensed professional counselor and therapist in Highmark's network. "Having a virtual option also gives you a broader pool of providers to choose from — if I'm the right specialist and 'fit' for someone, we can work together even if you live hours away. And, regardless of location, some people just feel more comfortable getting mental health services in the privacy of their home."

In April 2018, AHN introduced video visits to residents of Pennsylvania who are 18 and older. Patients can schedule a video visit by logging in to the AHN patient portal 'MyChart' from their smartphone, tablet or computer. MyChart provides patients with direct access to their AHN electronic health record information.

"Because video visits are conducted via MyChart, clinicians are able to quickly understand the patient's complete health picture — past and present — and, as a result, provide the same highly personalized, comprehensive care that the patient would expect to receive during an in-office visit," said Angela Pantelas, Director, Telehealth Strategy and Operations, AHN.

Patients will be connected face-to-face with an AHN nurse practitioner who will address their condition and treatment options for a defined set of symptoms like back pain, cough and urinary problems. The nurse may prescribe non-narcotic medications, as needed.

Highmark network providers that deliver virtual healthcare services can submit claims for services. Coverage for virtual care services and any related member cost-share is determined by the individual member's benefit.

About Highmark Inc.

Highmark Inc. and its health insurance subsidiaries and affiliates collectively are one of America's largest health insurance organizations and together with its Blue-branded affiliates, collectively comprise the third-largest overall Blue Cross and Blue Shield-affiliated organization in the country based on capital. Highmark Inc. and its affiliates operate health insurance plans in Pennsylvania, Delaware and West Virginia that serve approximately 4.6 million members and hundreds of thousands of additional individuals through the BlueCard® program. Its diversified businesses serve group customer and individual needs across the United States through dental insurance, vision care and other related businesses. Highmark Inc. is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield.

For more information, contact:
Aaron Billger
Highmark Inc.