LANSING, Mich. — Early in the COVID-19 pandemic, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and physician organizations representing thousands of Michigan doctors worked collaboratively to launch and expand telehealth services in a compressed timeframe. As a result, the number of physician practices using telehealth to reach patients increased 72 percent in just four weeks among in-network primary care and behavioral health providers in Michigan.
Physician groups took advantage of Blue Cross’s announcement in March that it would provide up to $5 million in incentives to physician organizations to support their launch of telehealth to reach their patients. Additionally, in March Blue Cross quickly expanded the scope of services that would be covered in telehealth visits and waived cost sharing through June 30 for members who used it.
Although telehealth is not new, it became a focus point as a means to provide care to patients during a time of social distancing while there was a need to continue to enable patients to seek care. Blue Cross launched weekly training webcasts to help physician organizations respond to the pandemic, and much of the dialogue was devoted to increasing the provision of telehealth.
Blue Cross has covered telehealth services since 2002, which has enabled patients to virtually connect with their doctor. The company quickly recognized the need to assist the provider community to rapidly transition to this method of care to support member access and provider solvency as in-person visits declined due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“As news of the pandemic and the importance of social distancing unfolded, primary care physicians and behavioral health providers were met with the reality that few patients were going to voluntarily come into their office, so offering telehealth services became an absolute necessity,” said Tom Leyden, director of Value Partnerships at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. “The response from providers to adopt or expand their telehealth capabilities has been exceptional. Over a four-week period, the percent of primary care and behavioral health providers participating in our Physician Group Incentive Program now providing telehealth services increased from below 10 percent to over 82 percent. We expect the use of telehealth services to continue beyond COVID given the evolving provider and member acceptance of telehealth.”
The Blue Cross incentives are intended to help physician offices implement telehealth programs and treat patients remotely, and can be used for costs related to technology, training and compliance requirements to provide the service. The incentives are available to the 40 physician organizations that are a part of Blue Cross’ Physician Group Incentive Program, and their more than 20,000 physicians across Michigan. Partnerships built through this 15-year-old statewide program designed to improve quality, collect data and share best practices are now being used to help providers adapt to the global pandemic.
More information on the company’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic is available on the company’s blog – www.mibluesperspectives.com.
Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, a nonprofit mutual insurance company, is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association. BCBSM provides and administers health benefits to more than 4.7 million members residing in Michigan in addition to employees of Michigan-headquartered companies who reside outside the state. In 2020, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan received the J.D. Power Award for “Highest Member Satisfaction Among Commercial Health Plans in Michigan” for the second time. For more company information, visit bcbsm.com [bcbsm.com] and MiBluesPerspectives.com [mibluesperspectives.com].
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