Business Council of Alabama member Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama began providing greater access to health care this month with its announcement that it will cover certain telemedicine services.
Blue Cross began paying telemedicine providers on Dec. 1. The decision was prompted partly by the general lack of sub-special doctor services in some rural communities, leaving gaps in special medical care compared with urban communities, Blue Cross said.
Thanks to technology and high-resolution video, telemedicine can remove barriers of time, distance, and access scarcities for remote, rural, and medically underserved areas. It works by exchanging patient medical information between two distant sites using a two-way telecommunications system in real time.
Blue Cross said the initiative will fill those gaps and provide care for cardiac, behavioral health, dermatologic, infectious disease, and neurologic disease including stroke.
“We are proud to support telemedicine because we want our members to have enhanced access to quality healthcare wherever they are in Alabama,” said Doug McIntyre, vice president of network operations for Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama. “With the innovative technology available today, we are now able to do just that.”
Coverage will meet the growing demand for health care services in rural areas by bringing this alternate service to local doctors without the patient having to travel.
For example, McIntyre told the Birmingham Business Journal, that if a patient shows up at a rural hospital with stroke symptoms, the emergency room physician can establish a telemedicine consultation with a neurologist in an urban area who would be able to view and assess the patient, view digital CT scans, and advise on a course of treatment.