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The doctor will see you now – on your computer or mobile device

By Csaba Mera, M.D., Deputy Chief Medical Officer | December 19, 2014

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Have you ever awakened in the middle of the night feeling ill and wished you could avoid dragging yourself out to see a doctor?

Increasingly, consumers have this option through an offering called telehealth.  Options range from a phone call or live video chat with a U.S. board-certified doctor, 24/7/365. More robust than a nurse advice line, telehealth lets people quickly and easily gain "e-access" to a provider, whether at home or on the road, for assistance with low acuity medical issues such as sore throats, earaches or pinkeye.

Regence has been paving the way on telehealth as a tool to help us make our health care system more efficient and more affordable. Over the past year, we’ve offered this option to our self-funded large employer groups across the four states where we do business – and we’re planning to expand this option in 2015 to more customers.

Ideally, telehealth lets you get the medical attention you need, when and where you need it, at a lower cost. Telehealth visits can be as little as $40. For a lot of people, that’s the amount of their co-pay. And for people with high-deductible plans and health savings accounts, that’s a significant savings when accounting for first dollar out of pocket costs.

In fact, this Towers Watson telehealth study says employer groups could save as much as $6 billion annually if patients use telehealth instead of a clinical visit. A more recent study for Medicare confirmed significant savings and found that 83 percent of telehealth visits resolved issues on the first visit.

There are a lot of reasons to choose telehealth: Wait times to see a doctor, doctor shortages in some areas, seeking care in remote areas, off-hours episodes, remaining productive at school and work by avoiding a trip to an office, and cost savings just to name a few. That’s why Regence is expanding telehealth access to more customers in 2015. Stay tuned.

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