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Virtual Reality: Telemedicine Continues to Increase Access to Care for Medi-Cal Members

Tuesday, July 13, 2010 Alternative Medicine News J E 4
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WOODLAND HILLS, Calif., July 12 According to US Department of Health and Human Services, compared with urban Americans, rural residents have higher poverty rates, have fewer doctors, hospitals, and other health resources, and face more difficulty getting to health services. Beginning 2014, when health care reform becomes effective, an estimated 2.4 million Californians will be newly-eligible for Medi-Cal. However, many families who reside in rural areas and depend on state funded programs may still feel left out of the health care system. That's where telemedicine can play an important role.

For more than 12 years, Anthem Blue Cross has focused on providing access to care for Medi-Cal members through the use of telemedicine - a technology that allows urban specialists the ability to consult with rural patients via computers, cameras, and encryption software remotely. And today, with improved technology and more telemedicine sites readily available in Anthem's network, residents in rural areas can get the benefit of a virtual consultation, without traveling a long distance or waiting for months to be seen in-person.

"We've long understood the needs of providing our Medi-Cal members in rural areas with access to care," said Kevin Hayden, president of Anthem Blue Cross' State Sponsored Business. "We know our members in these areas need access to specialty care and sometimes driving a long distance or taking time off from work just isn't a viable option." For more than a decade, Anthem has invested in building its telemedicine program and collaborating with specialists and leading medical centers to help bring state of the art medicine to their members with great results.

Another example of the success of telemedicine, are the benefits the program has offered through Anthem's PPO plans with CalPERS. It has allowed many rural State and local public agency employees to access specialist health care in underserved communities. CalPERS was the first commercial payer that boldly changed its Anthem benefit plan payment structure to assure their members have access to these remote specialists for their health care needs.

Today, Anthem's program boasts more than 65 presentation sites and 15 specialty centers that include medical centers such as Loma Linda University Health Care and the University of California San Francisco. This collaboration has resulted in more than 25,000 clinical consults with members for cardiology, endocrinology, dermatology and neurology medical needs. In the past two years the program has grown to include 31 specialists who elect to participate in the network of physicians--offering members greater access to highly specialized medicine.

Improved technology has also helped to significantly improve the quality of telemedicine consults for both the physician and the member. The introduction of high definition video and more powerful digital still cameras provides physicians drastically improved visual quality, a departure from earlier generations of video or still digital images that often times resulted in pixilation making it difficult for physicians to more accurately provide a medical assessment. "The fact is, telemedicine will only continue to expand and flourish, as applications like home health, 24/7 health care, and virtual visits are further developed and accepted," said San Francisco-based Dermatologist Marc Goldyne, MD, PhD, FAAD. Using telemedicine over the past 10 years, Dr. Goldyne has provided access to skin care for over 2,500 California patients who did not have prior access because of where they lived. Distance is no longer an obstacle to care as long as patients and their primary care providers have internet access.

As the rural parts of the state continue to struggle with the effects of the economy, Anthem recognizes more families will depend on state funded programs like Medi-Cal to provide them with access to care. "Inherent in that, is our need to ensure our members have access to care," explained Hayden. "The growth and increased use of the telemedicine program tells us that our efforts to expand our telemedicine capabilities are making a difference in the lives of our members, and we're grateful to have the collaboration of physicians and hospitals who help us meet the needs of Medi-Cal members everyday."

About Anthem Blue Cross

Anthem Blue Cross is the trade name of Blue Cross of California. Anthem Blue Cross and Anthem Blue Cross Life and Health Insurance Company are independent licensees of the Blue Cross Association. Ū ANTHEM is a registered trademark of Anthem Insurance Companies, Inc. The Blue Cross names and symbols are registered marks of the Blue Cross Association.

SOURCE Anthem Blue Cross
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