More patients are using telehealth in South Carolina.
Health insurer Blue Cross Blue Shield of South Carolina said there were 267,000 telehealth interactions between all providers statewide last year. Patients can interact with a doctor through their desktop computers or mobile phones for minor issues before scheduling an office visit if the issue cannot be solved.
“Telehealth is a critically useful tool in improving the quality of care for people in South Carolina, primarily by increasing access,” BCBS of SC Vice President and Innovation Officer Dr. Tripp Jennings said. “It’s a way for us to provide the most care at the most cost-efficient and convenient to the consumer manner.”
A growing number of patients are taking advantage of the convenience, he said.
“We have more visits already this year compared to all of last year,” Jennings said of Blue Cross Blue Shield’s telehealth program Blue CareOnDemand. “We have more than 24,000 visits since 2016. We had 9,000 visits in 2017 and 11,000 visits so far this year.”
Eleven counties are now participating in school-based telehealth programs.
“We’re starting to see increased usage and repeat visits,” he said. “That’s one of the things that I think we’ve seen a lot of, is the kind of word of mouth, or someone uses it and has a good experience with it and so they come back to it when they need that low-acuity care.”
The most common complaints patients have used telehealth for are sinusitis, upper respiratory infections, bronchitis, sore throat, flu and urinary tract infections. The service also is used for behavioral health, urgent care and lactation consultations for new mothers. Jennings said women use the service about twice as often as men.
“Many times it can be treated with just antibiotics via the telehealth visit, just like many primary care doctors will call in medications like that for their patients over the phone from the history,” Jennings said.