Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts rolling out virtual primary care program

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts hopes to capitalize on the demand for telehealth with a new virtual primary care offering.

Last week, the insurer unveiled a virtual care team feature it hopes to have up and running by the beginning of next year. To do this, the insurer is teaming up with two healthcare provider systems with national reach: Carbon Health and Firefly Health. Blue Cross MA said members will have access to comprehensive primary care that includes mental health and can have in-person consultations with providers as needed.

The Blues plan is the latest to roll out virtual primary care or a virtual-first offering, which have drawn interest from insurers large and small. Larger plans like UnitedHealthcare and Cigna are harnessing the virtual care platforms that are integrated with their enterprises to launch these offerings, while other payers are teaming with telehealth companies like Teladoc to roll out virtual-first options.

BCBSMA says that members will have access to comprehensive primary care that includes mental health and can have in-person consultations with providers as needed.

“The integrated delivery of mental health services and primary care supports whole person health and improved health outcomes,” Ashley Yeats, M.D., BCBSMA’s vice president of medical operations, told Fierce Healthcare. “It was important to BCBSMA that our VirtualPCP product feature provide convenient access to coordinated care from a team of providers working together to improve the overall wellbeing of our members.”

Blue Cross MA said that the plans include:

  • Accessibility beyond a desktop or laptop computer that texting and emails sent to their phones.
  • $0 copayments when a member visits a primary care physician or mental health provider.
  • No commuting or extensive wait times because the beneficiary’s access to coordinated and confidential virtual care.
  • Care for chronic conditions, including mental health.
  • A sort of goodies bag, that may include medical devices such as a blood pressure cuff. The visit goes better if someone knows their blood pressure before it starts.
  • Wellness coaching and support.

Yeats tells Fierce Healthcare that “primary care encompasses a spectrum of mental health and medical/surgical conditions, engaging specialists as clinical complexity increases. Our VirtualPCP providers have enhanced the mental health capabilities of their team of providers to provide higher levels of diagnosis, treatment (including prescribing), and support and are uniquely equipped to manage common mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety. Referrals are made to specialty providers when appropriate.”

Fay Rotenberg, Firefly Health’s CEO, said in a press release that the aim is to transform the healthcare experience for beneficiaries. “Using our virtual-first model, we believe patients can get expanded access to their providers for superior care and support, while seeing unparalleled satisfaction, better health outcomes, and lower costs. Everyone deserves access to this type of care experience," she said.