The COVID-19 pandemic is shedding new light on telehealth. Telehealth is when a patient and a provider communicate by audio, video or text messaging. The number of telehealth visits soared in 2020 as a result of the pandemic. According to a review of claims data from Excellus BlueCross BlueShield, the insurer processed 2.2 million telehealth claims in 2020. In 2019, the insurer processed 28,529 telehealth claims.
More Upstate New Yorkers Are Using Telehealth
Most adults in upstate New York (77 percent) have heard of or used telemedicine, according to a recent survey by Excellus BCBS. Of those adults who reported using telehealth, 90 percent did so since the outbreak of COVID-19. According to the survey, the most important features of telehealth were the ability to get prescriptions, the ability to avoid in-person visits and the cost of the visit.
New Government Action Expands Access to Care
In addition to helping people avoid in-person visits and get prescriptions, telehealth also increases access to care for people who may not have otherwise had it. Expanding access to care through telehealth was an area of focus in New York state Governor Andrew Cuomo’s 11th State of the State Address. “The COVID-19 pandemic laid bare the inequities in our healthcare system and showed that telehealth is a critical tool to expand access and lower costs for low-income communities, especially for behavioral health support,” said Cuomo, as he took executive action to expand access to remote care.
“When seeing a health care provider in person isn’t possible, or preferable, telehealth offers an effective alternative,” said Stephen H. Cohen, M.D., senior vice president and chief medical officer at Excellus BlueCross BlueShield. “Telehealth is here to stay, and our health plan will continue develop and support ways to increase access to this innovative way to get care.”
To learn more about your options for telehealth, talk with your doctor or visit ExcellusBCBS.com/Find-a-doctor/Telemedicine.