Going to see your doctor might no longer include “going” anywhere, as telemedicine transforms the way medical care is delivered.
The COVID-19 pandemic has rapidly changed the way doctors and patients interact. Patients across the globe, including those in U-M’s Health Plans, are utilizing telemedicine – real-time, virtual visits transmitted through a secure portal. Using computers, tablets and smartphones, patients and doctors discuss conditions, symptoms, prescriptions, test results and most of the normal business of an in-person visit.
What is Telemedicine?
It goes by a few names – telemedicine, telehealth, virtual visits – but the generally recognized term is telemedicine. When introduced in the 1960s, telemedicine began as a way to monitor the health of NASA’s astronauts in space.
Telemedicine works best to:
- Monitor a diagnosed condition or manage medication
- Follow up after surgery
- Diagnose and treat minor conditions, such as colds, flu, skin conditions and allergies
- Support behavioral/mental health
With some doctor’s offices focused on the COVID-19 crisis or closed entirely, many patients have become familiar with telemedicine as an effective means to manage their health. This is expected to continue as Michigan operates under the “Stay Home, Stay Safe” executive order through May 15 and perhaps beyond.
Although many physicians within U-M’s Health Plans offer telemedicine, and all Michigan Medicine providers have had the capability since April 1, demand has increased significantly. Check with your doctor’s office for availability and procedures.
COVID-19 Telemedicine Care Covered
Employees who are members of U-M’s Health Plans have their in-network cost-share, copay and coinsurance waived for the following COVID-19 services through June 30, 2020:
- Telemedicine medical appointments
- Telemedicine mental-health appointments for individual psychiatric and psychotherapy visits. However, copays will apply to group psychotherapy services and autism services that can be appropriately delivered through telemedicine.
To ensure your telemedicine visit is covered as described, call your in-network provider directly for an appointment. Blue Cross Online Visits scheduled using the BCBSM website or app are not covered by U-M’s health plans. You will be responsible for the entire cost of Blue Cross Online Visits.
Prepare for Your Appointment
Before your telemedicine appointment, settle in a quiet, out-of-the-way location so you can talk without disruption. Have your questions ready. Check to ensure:
- Your computer, tablet or phone is charged
- You have the necessary app or software used by your doctor
- Your camera and audio are activated
- Your phone line or wireless (Wi-Fi) service is working. High-speed Wi-Fi provides the best images without interruption; if you can stream a movie, you’re good.
- You have your list of medications or the actual medication containers nearby.
If your appointment is to monitor a specific condition, your doctor may ask you to have the following, recent health information available, as well as the equipment to measure it:
- Vital signs (blood pressure, temperature, pulse, respiration rate). If you don’t know how to take these, your doctor will show you.
- Blood-glucose level
- Lung function
Despite its convenience and effectiveness, telemedicine doesn’t replace urgent care centers and emergency treatment. If you experience chest pain, breathing difficulties or other life-threatening symptoms, call 911 or go to the nearest emergency department immediately.