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UPMC launches statewide app-based ER telemedicine program for health plan members

Powered by American Well, AnywhereCare app is intended for non-emergency ailments such as sore throats and respiratory illnesses.

University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Health Plan has launched an app-based, 24/7 telemedicine service for its members across Pennsylvania, offering video visits from UPMC emergency room clinicians.

First launched as a desktop service for UPMC Health Plan employees in November 2016, the new app version of AnywhereCare is now available to all patients within the state.

Even though emergency room professionals are providing the service, the AnywhereCare app is actually intended for non-emergency ailments that nonetheless require urgent care, such as sore throats and respiratory illnesses. Powered by American Well and white-labeled under UPMC, the video visit app is available for free on smartphones, tablets or desktop computers, and users can expect to wait a little over six minutes, on average, to see a clinician.

"Consumers are seeking convenient and high quality care, when and where they need it. Using AnywhereCare, patients can initiate a visit with a UPMC physician without traveling to an office or taking time off of work," Kim Jacobs, UPMC's vice president of consumer innovation said in a statement. "AnywhereCare visits are low cost, typically about half the cost of a health care plan copay, and they allow patients within Pennsylvania to be cared for by UPMC clinicians in their homes, at work, or on the road."

[Also: PinnacleHealth to affiliate with UPMC, acquire 4 hospital systems in Pennsylvania]

UPMC is one of the largest health systems and insurers in the state, counting 3,600 physicians across 25 hospitals and 600 offices and outpatient clinics. There are more than 3 million members under UPMC Health Plan, but AnywhereCare is available to anyone in the state regardless of their plan. Depending on coverage, the video consultations range from $10 to $49 per visit. Healthcare professionals conducting a visit can also send prescriptions directly to the patient's pharmacy, if need be, saving the patient even more time.

A spokesperson for UPMC said the organization eventually plans to expand the applications on AnywhereCare, bringing in other departments besides the non-emergency basics, but there are no currently no official plans in the works. For now, the service is still expected to relieve a considerable amount of strain on patients, clinicians and emergency rooms.

[Also: Insurance division buoys UPMC revenue gains, shows why providers are keen to add plans]

"The platform allows patients to use technology to be seen by doctors more quickly," stated Jacobs. "AnywhereCare also helps to free the backlog in doctor's offices, urgent care facilities, and hospital emergency rooms and allows doctors to spend more time with patients who suffer from chronic conditions. Nearly 90 percent of patient issues are resolved during the AnywhereCare virtual visit and do not require follow-up care."

In addition to providing care, UPMC also runs a venture arm called UPMC Enterprises that invests in health technology companies developed under the Pittsburgh Health Data Alliance. Last year, they invested in six health tech projects within the state as well as San Francisco-based Lantern, which makes web and mobile mental health coaching.

This story first appeared on MobiHealthNews.

Twitter: @HC_Finance

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