GAFP Raises Concerns with National Payers on Telemedicine

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

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

At the 2014 Congress of Delegates, several members raised concerns with incorrect diagnosis and treatment of patients using national telehealth programs.  The Georgia Academy of Family Physicians learned that Blue Cross Blue Shield of Georgia and United Healthcare offer telehealth services through LiveHealth Online and Teledoc respectively.

In April, we met with senior staff at BCBSGA and LiveHealth Online to discuss policies and procedures associated with LiveHealth Online’s telehealth program.  The briefing revealed shortcomings in care coordination and physical review of medical diagnosis that we believe lowers the quality of these services for our Georgia patients.  We noted LiveHealth Online’ s services lack any direct linkage to the patient’s primary care physician, placing the onus on the patient to share information with other physicians.  We also noted the absence of physical exam prior to medical diagnosis, which increases our concerns for overutilization and incorrect prescribing of antibiotics.  Since the meeting, we have formally requested for BCBS of Georgia to address these concerns with LiveHealth Online and provide us with a response.

While we have engaged to address these concerns locally, we feel these issues warrant national awareness.  We have asked the AAFP Board of Directors and senior staff to explore these concerns with national payers in effort to shape the potential benefits of these outreach tools.  We strongly believe the potential for telemedicine as a tool to enhance access and patient-centered care is intact, but it is not adequately utilized.  GAFP will continue discussions on local and national levels to ensure that our Georgia family physicians and patients receive services that meet our standards for safety and quality.