Maine docs pilot 'e-visits'

Physicians in Maine are piloting electronic visits with their patients as part of a program developed between Eastern Maine Healthcare Systems (EMHS) and Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield in Maine.

The initial phase of the program will allow physicians at selected primary care practices at Eastern Maine Medical Center (EMMC) in Bangor and The Aroostook Medical Center (TAMC) in Presque Isle to conduct "e-visits" with their patients who are Anthem members. The program will also allow Anthem members to send health related messages and questions and communicate via email with their doctors about non-emergent issues, in addition to scheduling appointments, checking on test results, or requesting prescription refills.

"This program provides yet another way for individuals to interact with their physician for non-urgent health issues," said Iyad Sabbagh, MD, lead physician at Husson Internal Medicine in Bangor. "We feel it will offer our patients greater ease of access to their doctor and help save time for both physician and patient."

 

According to Vincent Liscomb, Jr., executive director, provider engagement and contracting, Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield in Maine, the new service will benefit all patients, but especially those who don't always have access to reliable transportation, college students, or people who live out of the state for part of the year.

"In addition to the added convenience," Liscomb said, "members who choose to use the pilot will not have co-pays."

EMMC and TAMC - both members of EMHS - are also participating in a similar pilot with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Sabbagh said EMHS staff has worked hard to develop a number of protocols to ensure the interactions are both secure and appropriate to a patient's treatment plan.

"This program is not meant to replace a face-to-face visit or annual exams, rather it supports the patient's good health between regular office visits," he said. "It's also important to note that the program is for patients who already have an established relationship with their doctor and have been seen within the past year."

Anthem officials are urging their members who currently see EMMC or TAMC primary care physicians to check to see if their provider is participating in the pilot.

"We're excited to collaborate with EMHS in this pilot," said Jeffrey Holmstrom, medical director, Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield in Maine. "We feel that this program has the potential to enhance patient access to their primary care physician, resulting in better care coordination, improved outcomes, and more efficient medical care."

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