Discussions Continue with National Payers on Telemedicine

By:   Wayne K. Hoffman, MD, FAAFP – President

Loy D. “Chip” Cowart, III, MD, FAAFP – GAFP Speaker, Congress of Delegates

Recently, GAFP raised concerns with BCBSGA and Live Health Online regarding the lack of coordination between their telehealth program and primary care physicians, and the absence of a physical exam prior to diagnosis.  We recommended for Live Health Online to consider including a field for the patient’s primary care physician during registration, so that the physician could receive notification of the patient’s use of telehealth services.  We requested BCBS of Georgia and Live Health Online to consider these concerns and respond to our recommendations.  We also engaged the AAFP Board of Directors and senior staff to explore our telemedicine concerns with national payers to increase awareness.    We received a response from AAFP in June, stating they addressed these concerns with Anthem and Live Health Online.  Anthem and LHO were receptive to these concerns and have tasked their IT staff with reviewing GAFP’s recommendation of forwarding the encounter on to the patient’s PCP.  The AAFP acknowledges the need for physician examination supported by evidence-based guidelines for chronic conditions and advocates for completion of physical examination prior to the use of telehealth services.  The AAFP will continue to monitor the developments of telehealth services and advocate for higher quality on behalf of family physicians.

Also in July, BCBSGA invited GAFP leaders to return for a follow up discussion on the concerns presented in prior months.  BCBSGA and Live Health Online expressed their commitment to improving the quality of services delivered through the telehealth program and plans to work directly with Live Health Online to remedy these concerns in efforts to promote continuity and coordination of care.  GAFP will continue to monitor any developments and act on any concerns for patient safety and quality of care.