Virginia Anthem Blues combines high-tech, low-tech to cut avoidable ER use

With the average total cost of an emergency room visit ($441) 4.5 times higher than the average total cost of an urgent-care center visit ($98) and almost 8.5 times higher than a retail-care clinic visit ($52), Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield in Richmond, Va., is using both high-tech and low-tech methods to try to divert some unnecessary ER visits to less-costly venues, reports the Richmond Times-Dispatch. Anthem has launched a Google Maps tool that allows members to generate a list of nearby urgent-care and retail clinic options at its website. (The iPhone application will launch later this year.) In addition, Anthem members with the 24/7 NurseLine benefit can call in for advice on where to go from an Anthem registered nurse. Anthem is educating members via interactive voice recognition calls and e-mail messaging about the types of conditions that often can be treated outside the ER. The insurer also is conducting an outreach campaign to educate physicians about non-ER care options. Article

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Anthem posted $1.18 billion in third-quarter profit, an increase of 23% over the prior-year quarter.