CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — American Well, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina and Walgreens' Take Care Health Systems have collaborated to make telehealth services available to thousands of BCBSNC employees located throughout North Carolina. The service, called OnlineCareNC, allows BCBSNC employees from home or work to receive a healthcare consultation from credentialed Take Care Health System nurse practitioners, health coaches or nutritionists through two-way video, secure text chat or phone.
“Providing affordable and convenient access to quality health care in North Carolina is critical to the overall health of our employees, customers and state,” stated Fara Palumbo, chief human resources officer for BCBSNC. “Our collaboration with American Well and Take Care Health allows us to explore the capabilities of this new technology to meet the growing healthcare needs of our employees and customers, now and in the future.”
BCBSNC employees can use OnlineCareNC to connect with a Take Care nutritionist or health coach for a live visit, while those with established relationships with BCBSNC’s health center providers can use the online technology to talk live with a nurse practitioner. During each online visit, Take Care Clinic healthcare providers will be able to review the employee’s available clinical information, discuss symptoms and recommend follow-up care, as appropriate, to established patients. The telehealth system will automatically create a complete electronic record of each online visit, supporting continuity of care and collaboration among the providers caring for employees.
“Innovative approaches, such as telehealth, and specifically OnlineCareNC, enable us to expand our reach and positively impact more lives, ultimately driving better health outcomes while also reducing costs for patients, businesses and payers,” said Peter Hotz, group VP for Walgreens.
Telehealth service offerings are undergoing rapid adoption by insurers and employers across the United States to meet employer and consumer demand for convenient and cost-effective care, Walgreens reported. For example, nearly 40% of BCBSNC employees are currently enrolled in consumer-driven HSA plans. OnlineCareNC provides a convenient and cost-effective option for BCBSNC employees on these types of health plans, who are more actively looking for ways to manage their own medical costs. A July 2012 Towers Watson report found that more than 1-in-4 employers plan to offer telehealth services within 12 months, while a June 2012 Accenture survey found 3-in-4 patients want to communicate with their doctors electronically.
“Health plan- and employer-sponsored telehealth solutions are gaining momentum nationally and globally as they prove to increase access to care and start to rein in costs,” noted Ido Schoenberg, chairman and CEO of American Well. “Online Care is increasingly being embraced as it delivers on the promise to lower costs while increasing patient access to immediate, real-time health care when and where it’s needed.”
Take Care Health Systems, a division of Walgreens, manages the on-site BCBSNC health centers. OnlineCareNC is available to BCBSNC employees from home and at Virtual Clinics located at corporate headquarters in Durham and Winston-Salem, N.C.