Growing Awareness, Use and Acceptance of Telemedicine Options Seen in Upstate NY

Telemedicine: Access To Health Care Anytime, Anywhere (poster-May 2019)

​​​Health care visits delivered via telemedicine nearly tripled over the past two years in upstate New York, as awareness and financial support of the option has expanded, Excellus BlueCross BlueShield announced today.

According to a claims-based review of health care services delivered, health plan members made 5,137 telemedicine visits in 2016. In 2018, the number of telemedicine visits among its members jumped to 14,790.

“Extrapolating our experience to the state as a whole, we estimate that New Yorkers made more than 180,000 telemedicine visits last year, leading us to the conclusion that this additional method of receiving care is quickly emerging,” said Stephen H. Cohen, M.D., senior vice president and corporate medical director for Excellus BCBS.

Private insurance, Medicare and Medicaid pay for health care services delivered via telemedicine now. Awareness and acceptance of telemedicine is growing rapidly, according to an online survey of upstate New York adults conducted by One Research and commissioned for Excellus BlueCross BlueShield in early 2019.

Among the 2,004 respondents:

·        More than 50 percent said they know about telemedicine

·        Five percent reported to have used it

·        Among those who have used telemedicine, 93 percent rated the experience favorably

·        Some 43 percent of all respondents said they would consider using telemedicine in the future

“Telemedicine can help address several health care needs,” said Dr. Cohen. “For many common conditions, it can be used to avoid potentially preventable visits to a hospital emergency room or an urgent care center.”

Among a sample of health plan members who used telemedicine last year, about 4 percent reported that method of care helped them avoid using a hospital emergency room. Had the telemedicine option not been available, 55 percent reported that they would have used an urgent care center, 26 percent said they would have seen their primary care physician, 10 percent said they would have delayed getting care, and the remainder chose “other.”

“The ideal method of getting care is to see your physician,” said Dr. Cohen. “We suspect a number of telemedicine visits taking place are occurring because patients cannot immediately get appointments for minor conditions and feel they need to address or want to address their issues quickly; otherwise they would wait.”

An estimated 78 percent of telemedicine visits made by a sample of health plan members in 2018 were related to medical treatments, with the balance (22 percent) related to behavioral health services.

The top medical conditions for which members sought telemedicine treatment were:

·        Heart disease

·        Hypertension

·        Skin disorders

·        Diabetes

·        Pneumonia

Top behavioral health conditions for which members sought telemedicine treatment were:

·        Anxiety

·        Depression

·        Childhood/adolescence disorders

·        Attention disorder

·        Bipolar disorder

Psychiatrist visits were cited by the health plan as one of the fastest-growing areas of telemedicine care.

“Telemedicine is helping patients see their psychiatrists for their medication management,” said Dr. Cohen. “Patients can get quicker access to address their behavioral health needs. And, we’ve learned that our members like being able to consult with their psychiatrists from the comfort and privacy of their homes.”

“Telemedicine isn’t the answer for everything, but these results are positive signs that it is seen as a valuable tool that enhances access to care,” Dr. Cohen said. “Patients are using telemedicine for quick check-ins on their chronic conditions. Families are putting their doctors in their pockets when they go on vacation. Kids are using it when they go off to college. We’re seeing folks from rural areas more easily getting basic care and follow up care from specialists using telemedicine without having to travel long distances.”

Also, a new telemedicine educational poster is available for download HERE.

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Excellus BlueCross BlueShield, an independent licensee of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, is a nonprofit health plan with 1.5 million upstate New York members. The company's mission is to help people live healthier and more secure lives through access to high-quality, affordable health care.  Its products and services include cost-saving prescription drug discounts, wellness tracking tools and access to telemedicine.  With more than 3,500 employees, the company is committed to attracting and retaining a diverse workforce to foster innovation and better serve its members.  It also encourages employees to engage in their communities by providing paid volunteer time off as one of many benefits. To learn more, visit

Contact: Jim Redmond, 585-238-4579

Source: Excellus BlueCross BlueShield