UPMC launches statewide access to emergency telemedicine services

One of Pennsylvania’s largest integrated healthcare institutions is expanding an initiative that would provide all state residents access to emergency services through a telemedicine app. 

After launching a desktop version for members of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Health Plan last year, UPMC is expanding the telemedicine initiative to patients throughout the state, according to a press release. Through a partnership with American Well, UPMC launched AnywhereCare, a mobile app that connects patients to emergency clinicians to treat low-risk ailments that require urgent care.

Kim Jacobs, vice president of consumer innovation at UPMC Health Plan, said the app offers 24/7 access to the system’s clinical staff and typically costs about half as much as a healthcare plan copay—ranging from $10 to $49 for a visit.

“The platform allows patients to use technology to be seen by doctors more quickly,” Jacobs said. "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% of patient issues are resolved during the AnywhereCare virtual visit and do not require follow-up care.”

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Last year, Andrew Watson, medical director of the UPMC’s telehealth division said virtual visits are fundamental to the system’s efforts to transition toward value-based care.

Pennsylvania received an “A” in physician practice standards and licensure and a “B” in telehealth coverage and reimbursement, according to recent reports from the American Telemedicine Association. However, overall progress across the country was a “mix of strides and stagnation.”