Virtual reality: More insurers are embracing telehealth

cold-and-fluBlue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama resisted paying for most telehealth services for years after their introduction. The insurer, which holds a near-monopoly of the state’s commercial market, had cost concerns about the still-evolving technology that electronically connects patients with doctors and other clinicians.

There wasn’t even a clear definition of what qualified as a telehealth visit.

Should doctors submit a telehealth claim for every patient phone call? Should real-time video visits be the primary catalysts for payment? Should telehealth be used mostly for primary-care treatments such as ear infections and colds? Should it include more specialized care like psychiatry?

“What is the definition of telemedicine?” asked Doug McIntyre, vice president of network operations at BCBS of Alabama. “People struggled to really tell us what that is.”

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