Finally, in this week’s news for nurses is a look at the continuing advances in telehealth initiatives out there. While telehealth has been around for a while, insurers and Medicare have been reluctant to pay for telehealth-based assessments, diagnosis, or prescriptions. That might be changing, though.

Telehealth Patient Consults Approved

telehealth webcam healthcareIn an article I found over at ModernHealthCare.com, there is a look at how one insurer is seeing a positive effect from being more accepting of telehealth programs. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama had been like most insurers out there and had resisted paying for telehealth services.

One of the issues was what constituted a telehealth patient contact. Did that include phone calls in response to after hours pages? Did it pertain to video interactions like Skype calls or the use of apps on mobile devices like TelaDoc? There were a lot of questions.

Rural Populations and Telehealth

BCBS of Alabama faced these problems in what to do with telehealth by looking at their mostly rural population and trying to decide what type of healthcare interactions worked best for that population. Beginning at the end of 2015, BCBS of Alabama decided that five common patient interactions could be done over a video connection because, as they said in the article, it was “Indistinguishable from a face-to-face visit” with a care provider.

These five covered telehealth interactions included things like behavioral health consults and counseling and remote stroke assessment. They are also working on a partnership with the telehealth app TelaDoc to provide urgent care services for their patient subscribers in an effort to cut down on ER visits and after hours consult costs.

I would expect this trend to continue including the use of “ask-a-nurse” phone lines to help manage patients without a doctor’s visit or ER ambulance call. Stay tuned for more on this as other insurers continue to adopt these technology initiatives as options for their patients.

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Make sure you follow-up on the links for this news item and all of the other news and additional resource links from this week’s episode – Patient Simulation in Nursing Education and Episode 385.

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