Good health is a journey. For some, it’s a simple, clear route. For others, it’s a greater struggle. But eventually, we all face inevitable forks in the road and need trusted resources and tools to help guide us. This year, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona (BCBSAZ) has invested in expanding our telehealth offering to further support our mission of improving Arizonans’ quality of life through achievement of optimal health. It provides more choice in where to get care, and it removes obstacles for many who otherwise couldn’t find a way to see the doctor.

Improving Access and Efficiency
Telehealth services like BCBSAZ’s BlueCare Anywhere connect individuals with doctors, nurses, psychiatrists, and counselors via phone, tablet, or computer. This matters, because a big part of navigating the road to good health is addressing issues and concerns without delay. Packed calendars, travel plans, and lack of after-hours appointments at some doctors’ offices can all be barriers to timely care. But not for telehealth. The convenience makes it a popular option—anytime, anywhere. A virtual visit with a clinician can address minor illnesses and give guidance when what to do next is uncertain.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 69 million American workers miss days of work due to illness each year. By improving access and encouraging people to get care sooner rather than putting it off, telehealth can help ensure health issues are identified and treated before they worsen. This reduces employees’ time away from work, which can have a positive impact on their families’ financial health and the related stress.

Plus, if a concern can be resolved by a telehealth physician, it may also prevent an unnecessary trip to urgent care or the hospital (and the related costs). In fact, research from American Well, BCBSAZ’s telehealth partner, shows that telehealth services could save an average of $214 in costs per visit as compared to emergency room, urgent care, or doctor’s office visits.

Addressing Barriers to Care
From addressing provider shortages to improving the healthcare experience and reducing costs, telehealth offers significant advantages. More than 350,000 Arizonans reside in rural areas, where provider shortages are more common. Many families must travel to urban centers to see a doctor. Telehealth creates another option for these individuals so they can get care for a wide range of crucial health needs.

Telehealth also improves access for those needing behavioral health services. A study from Mental Health America ranks Arizona 50th in the United States for access to behavioral health care. Telehealth improves access by making more trained behavioral health professionals available. At the same time, telehealth addresses some of the emotional barriers to getting help by allowing individuals to access care from the privacy of their own homes.

Across the country, medical professionals are finding new ways to use communications technology to bring doctors and patients closer together, faster. At BCBSAZ, we will continue to embrace these innovations by making these services available to our members.

Eligible BCBSAZ employer groups can access BlueCare Anywhere directly at azblue.com/bluecareanywhere.

By Pam Kehaly, President and CEO, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona

Posted by Danny Imes