Anthem Using Google Maps and Member Education on Options for Non-Emergent Conditions

NEW HAVEN, Conn., July 13, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield has launched an education campaign incorporating Google Maps to make it easier for consumers to find and use retail health clinics and walk-in centers for non-emergency conditions when their regular physicians are not available.

"When your five-year-old is crying with a fever at 7 p.m. on a Friday because she has a sore throat or an ear ache, what do you do?" states Eina G. Fishman, MD, MS, CPE, Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield Medical Director. "It is important that people know they have options for less serious ailments other than an ER, such as retail health clinics and walk-in centers that provide quality care and may cost significantly less."

Consumers may save out-of-pocket expenses because ER copays range from $75 to $100, compared with $20 to $30 for walk-in centers and retail health clinics, depending upon the member's benefits.

"Not only were the ER program's online tools developed to be easy to use—but they are available to everyone," said David R. Fusco, president, Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield. "All you have to do is go to Google, Yahoo! or Bing, and type in 'Anthem CT Urgent Care' and our educational site will pop up with a link to help you find other options of participating ER alternatives. The web page will also provide information on the services available at these alternatives and when it's important to go to the emergency room."

"We see in our data that the highest rates of avoidable ER use are among people 34 and younger—those who are less likely to have a primary care physician, but more likely to use technology," said

Dr. Fishman. "We chose to develop Google Maps and create online advertising because that's where people go for information."

About 17 percent of all visits to hospital emergency departments nationally could potentially be treated at retail medical clinics or urgent care centers for an estimated savings of $4.4 billion, according to a RAND Corp. study published in the September 2010 edition of Health Affairs.  ER visits also are getting longer; with Connecticut ranked 29th nationally in the length of its ER waits—247 minutes, according to the Emergency Department Pulse Report, Press Ganey Associates, 2010.

Research performed by HealthCore Inc., which conducts research for health plans and others, showed that a pilot program with a commercially insured population in Virginia, which included member education via e-mails and online advertising, in addition to benefit incentives and a Google map finder for retail health clinics and urgent care centers, assisted in members' decisions to use ER alternatives for non-emergency care.

The study showed that ER use for conditions that could be treated at retail health or urgent care clinics decreased in 2010 from 2009 for all populations studied.  Specifically, HealthCore reported a 14 percent decrease in ER visits for those who participated in the program compared with those who did not. The decrease in visits covered minor sicknesses or conditions that could be treated elsewhere.

"This program demonstrates that by empowering members with information on appropriate resources, they can still get the care they need while managing health care expenses," said Dr. Fishman.

The study also showed that after the intervention period, the group participating in the program was more than twice as likely to seek treatment for non-emergency conditions at retail health clinics as those who did not participate. The study was conducted with a commercially-insured population in Virginia.

The Connecticut ER program includes:

  • Ads on Google, Yahoo! and Bing that drive visitors to an educational site explaining when it's appropriate to use ER alternatives, such as retail health clinics and walk-in centers.
  • A Google map, available to everyone, that provides the location of retail health clinics and walk-in centers in Anthem's network throughout the state so that consumers can easily find them.  
  • Automated calls to educate members whose recent ER visits were potentially avoidable, and e-mails to members interested in learning more information.
  • Educational pieces mailed explaining the type of conditions that could be treated at ER alternatives and potential differences in member out-of-pocket amounts.  

About Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield in Connecticut
Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield is the trade name of Anthem Health Plans, Inc., an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association. ® ANTHEM is a registered trademark of Anthem Insurance Companies, Inc. The Blue Cross and Blue Shield names and symbols are registered marks of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association.  Additional information about Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield in Connecticut is available at www.anthem.com. Also, follow us on Twitter at www.twitter.com/healthjoinin, on Facebook at www.facebook.com/HealthJoinIn, or visit our YouTube channel at www.youtube.com/healthjoinin.  

SOURCE Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield in Connecticut