While a majority of state legislatures have passed laws that force private health insurance companies to cover health care services delivered through telemedicine, North Carolina is not one of those states. It doesn’t need to be.
Whether private payers reimburse medical professionals for delivering health care at a distance, medical professionals in the state are already invested in many forms of telemedicine that cater to multiple levels of care. You can read more about that here, here, and here.
As is the case in North Carolina, other states in the Southeast are demonstrating that more government oversight over insurance companies isn’t necessary for telemedicine to flourish:
The Alabama Stroke Care Network
- Before Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama began covering tele-neurology services in 2015, Southeast Alabama Medical Center (SAMC) sought to improve the state’s ranking as having the worst stroke mortality in the nation. In 2011, SAMC began raising funds to develop the Alabama Stroke Care Network. The hospital’s foundation and philanthropic arm raised over $255,000 to pay for six telemedicine carts equipped with necessary resources to connect stroke victims in rural Alabama with neurologists working for SAMC and AcuteCare Telemedicine (ACT), a tele-stroke company headquartered in Atlanta, GA. Within two years, the Stroke Care Network expanded to include five “spoke” hospitals across rural Alabama. ER providers in these hospitals can now interact virtually with neurologists at SAMC and ACT to help assess stroke victims and administer clot busting drugs.
- Teladoc, one of the leading telemedicine companies in the U.S., has also contracted with BCBS Alabama to extend its urgent care consult services to group plan policyholders. 90 percent of Teladoc’s patient consultations can be resolved over the telephone.
- Florida is home to multiple telemedicine start-ups. MD Live, a national telemedicine leader, has secured $73 million in venture capital funding since its founding in 2009. One of its notable partnerships is with Cigna. Self-insured companies that contract with Cigna now offer MDLive’s 24/7 video consultations as a supplemental primary care benefit for employees. The company defines itself by providing expedited continuity of care, as each documented patient encounter is sent to an in-network PCP and uploaded into that patient’s EMR.
- Another direct-to-consumer telemedicine start-up is MDPlus. Established in Clearwater, FL, the company offers three different “around-the-clock” medical consultation plans for individuals and businesses. The basic plan, for example, costs $20 a month in addition to a $35 consultation fee when a customer connects with a health care provider for non-urgent medical needs. MDPlus also brings transparency to the health care market with its patient advocacy services. Representatives provide customers with price comparisons for medical procedures, equipment, and prescriptions.
Anthem Blue Cross
- iSelectMD, another telemedicine consultation service, is now available to more than 180,000 members of West Virginia Public Employees Insurance Agency (PEIA). Members of PEIA include employees at school systems and universities, local governments and other state agencies. iSelect MD’s licensed physicians aim to resolve patient consults within an average 30 minutes.
Telehealth Service’s SmarTigr Patient Engagement Program (*A North Carolina-Based Company)
- With the help of Telehealth Service’s SmarTigr, a patient education program that is integrated into health systems’ smart TVs, Charleston Area Medical Center has been able to reduce hospital readmission rates by 22 and 30 percent in one year for patients with heart and lung disease. This is a significant achievement, given that West Virginia leads the nation in prevalence rates for chronic illnesses. SmarTigr’s platform lets caregivers select educational videos that are relevant to their patients’ health issues, followed by comprehension “quizzes” on medication adherence and disease self-management. SmarTigr is a useful tool that not only enhances patient engagement, but also improves health literacy.