SCHENECTADY — Rival health insurers CDPHP and MVP Health Care are teaming up to give their members free access to telemedicine for COVID-19 concerns.
It is an effort to ease the worries of members who may be worried they’ve contracted the disease.
Fortunately, these worries mostly have been unfounded so far. If people make their preliminary contact with medical providers by phone rather than in person, they’ll avoid potential exposure to people who may actually have the virus. They’ll also help prevent overcrowding in medical offices and hospital emergency departments.
Schenectady-based MVP and Albany-based CDPHP have over 1 million members combined, mostly in New York with a few in Vermont.
CDPHP’s ER Anywhere and MVP Health Care’s myERnow — both powered by Troy-based United Concierge Medicine — are staffed by emergency room-trained medical professionals able to perform significant portions of the diagnosis procedure by phone.
If the doctor speaking to the patient suspects COVID-19, or can’t rule it out, they can authorize a test for the patient and provide instructions on minimizing the potential spread of the virus.
Telemedicine has been in favor with insurers for years now, due to its cost-saving potential. But it has gained acceptance slowly. Those who try it once often use it again because they appreciate the convenience factor. But those who haven’t tried are often skeptical it can be as effective as an in-person doctor’s visit.
The COVID-19 crisis — with its unprecedented levels of restriction on public gatherings and blaring warnings about close contact — appears to have convinced many people to give it a try.
Telemedicine use by CDPHP members already was picking up before the virus hit the U.S. mainland, spokeswoman Ali Skinner said.
“We really saw an explosion in demand for Doctor on Demand over the weekend,” she said.
Doctor on Demand is another CDPHP telemedicine product, but it is more akin to a primary care office than an emergency room. That’s why ER Anywhere is being promoted for COVID-19 response.
The two health insurers are staunch rivals but readily agreed to collaborate on this initiative in this time of crisis.
“As the public contends with coronavirus COVID-19, it’s essential that communities and businesses like ours collaborate to tackle this issue in innovative ways,” MVP President and CEO Christopher Del Vecchio said in a news release. “Together with CDPHP, we’re leveraging technology during a challenging time to support the health and safety of the communities we serve. This program is a game-changer for anyone in need of virtual ER triage.”
Both insurers said members will not have to pay for any COVID-19 test ordered by a doctor, nor will they need to obtain prior authorization.
CDPHP members can download the app on their smartphone, or simply call 1-866-ER-ANYWHERE to be connected to a live, emergency medicine provider, or visit www.cdphp.com/ERAnywhere.
MVP Health Care members can call 1-833-myERnow, or visit www.mvphealthcare.com/myERnow to be connected to a live, emergency medicine provider.