UPMC offers emergency telehealth services statewide
- The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Health Plan Monday launched AnywhereCare, a mobile app that provides 24/7 access to emergency telehealth services to patients across Pennsylvania, MobiHealthNews reports.
- First offered in November to UPMC Health Plan employees via desktop, the smartphone-enabled app is powered by American Well and available under the UPMC label.
- Kim Jacobs, vice president of consumer innovation at UPMC Health Plan, said app users can access emergency clinicians at about half the cost of a health plan copay, ranging from $10 to $49 per visit. The app is intended for patients seeking treatment for low-risk problems that require immediate care.
Since its initial launch in November, AnywhereCare has received high marks from users, ranking 4.8 out of 5, according to UPMC. The average wait time for a video visit is just over six-and-a-half minutes.
Roughly 3 million people have health coverage through UPMC Insurance Services Division, which netted $12.8 billion in operating revenue for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2016. The AnywhereCare initiative
UPMC is one of more than 50 health systems that have partnered with American Well to offer telehealth options. Others include Massachusetts General Hospital, Cleveland Clinic, Intermountain Healthcare and Bon Secours.
Driving growth are the shift to value-based reimbursement and the consumerization of U.S. healthcare. Medicare began paying for telehealth services in 1997, and 15 states now require private and public payers to cover remote healthcare visits. Medicaid programs in all 50 states also cover some form of telemedicine, according to the American Telemedicine Association. However, five states — Idaho, Missouri, New York, North Carolina and South Carolina — prohibit use of cell phone video to facilitate telehealth visits.
Consumers are also looking for the convenience telehealth offers. In a recent survey by American Well, 22% of respondents said they would switch primary care providers to gain access to telehealth services.
The rapid growth in telehealth services prompted the American Medical Association’s House of Delegates to adopt guidelines last summer on the ethical practice of care delivered by telephone, videoconferencing and other remote channels.
Yet while proponents tout telehealth’s ease of use and patient-centric focus, the jury is still out on whether it reduces costs. A recent study by RAND Corporation found that just 12% of telehealth visits for acute respiratory illness replaced visits to other providers. The rest — 88% — represented new utilization.