Video visits give PCPs more bandwidth

January 14, 2013

WellPoint's LiveHealth Online offers members live-video visits with primary care physicians.

WellPoint’s soon-to-launch LiveHealth Online service offers members live-video visits with primary care physicians who can consult on common health concerns such as colds, allergies and infections. While convenient for members who don’t have timely access to a provider, the virtual visits also help PCPs make time to see more patients.

“We recognize the need for healthcare to become more accessible and convenient than ever before especially with an anticipated shortage of primary care doctors, crowded ERs and continued rising costs,” says John Jesser, WellPoint vice president, provider engagement strategy. “There are various studies on the potential savings as a result of online care-all of which indicate there are savings that will come from the urgent care, ER and other more costly visits, that can be replaced by an online visit. “

Enhanced access through technology increasingly will benefit patients in rural areas, who might have to travel a long distance to a physician’s office, and those who need evening or weekend appointments.

“Based on the demand patterns seen by urgent care and other solutions, this type of care is most needed during the day and evening,” Jesser says. “The service will start with doctor availability from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. across all continental U.S. time zones and will expand as demand dictates.”

The typical online visit is approximately 10 minutes and includes secure, live audio and video interaction between the physician and the patient. While the plan’s reimbursement rates are confidential, the net reimbursement to a physician is similar to the net reimbursement for seeing a patient in the office, according to Jesser.

“The cost of these visits is lower to the consumer because there is less office overhead,” he says.

A PCP must join LiveHealth Online to participate, but members can choose any participating physician. The encounter record from the video visit can be forwarded to a member’s usual PCP.

Jesser says most physicians have the ability to deliver video-based visits online with patients.  WellPoint makes the connection through a specific network that requires physicians to be board certified.

LiveHealth Online will launch initially to small and large-group fully-insured customers and self-funded national employers.