Blues in Michigan Work to Promote Telemedicine

April 10, 2017
Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and Blue Care Network of Michigan are working with 23 physician organizations with the aim to promote telemedicine services, according to a report in Crain’s Detroit Business.

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and Blue Care Network of Michigan are working with 23 physician organizations with the aim to promote telemedicine services, according to a report in Crain’s Detroit Business.

In the report, author Jay Greene noted that Blue Cross officials have discussed plans to expand such telemedicine services as electronic visits initiated by patients, urgent care visits and other online reimbursed services like scheduled primary care visits, specialist consultations, care management and behavioral health. And, the Michigan Blues also are expected to create additional financial incentives under their physician group incentive program, a quality improvement program for medical groups.

"We found a great deal of interest in telehealth after including a series of questions about it in our 2016 PGIP Physician Organization survey," Margaret Mason, Blue Cross health care value business consultant, said in a statement, per the Crain’s report.

Thus far, 17 physician organizations have submitted telemedicine plans that could lead to additional payments in May, officials told Crain’s. Six of the groups have launched telehealth services in some of their practices and another six groups are assessing options.

Since its inception in 2005, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan's Physician Group Incentive Program has supported and facilitated practice transformation using a wide variety of initiatives to reward physician organizations for improved performance in healthcare delivery. PGIP includes more than 40 physician organizations from across the state of Michigan, representing over 19,000 primary care and specialty physicians who are members of the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan TRUST PPO and/or Traditional Networks.

"In our meetings with providers, we discussed reimbursement and the type of technology required to implement telehealth in their offices," Mason said in the report. "The physicians recognize the need to incorporate telehealth into their primary care practices to avoid the fragmentation of care and overuse of antibiotics that could occur if their patients use stand-alone urgent care telehealth centers."

Across the U.S., telehealth initiatives have increased, but a recent report from SERMO, a global social networking platform for physicians, did find that just 4 percent of U.S.-based physicians think that their state has done “very well” implementing telehealth technologies and only 15 percent responded “well” when evaluating their state’s efforts to implement telehealth. Overall, the telehealth landscape is complex, especially from a policy standpoint in which reimbursement and licensure issues are still core challenges across states.

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