I’m about to turn 61 years old. I can tell you, as a cancer survivor (bone cancer in my 20s), I seldom considered that I might still be around at this age, but I am thrilled to be here. I don’t feel my age every day, but every now and then …
Is Everything on the Internet?
A text from my son – “Dad, my car is running really rough, can you help me figure out what’s going on?” This is not an unusual request; my adult children are driving a veritable fleet of very reliable, used vehicles, but most of them are 10 years old or older, so they need a little TLC now and then. I start the diagnostic process with a raft of questions and discover this car (with 140,000+miles) on it has never had the spark plugs and wires replaced. I recommend that to my son and tell him I can come over on Saturday to give him a hand. I’ve done this particular service many, many times myself but couldn’t ever remember showing him how to get it done. It can be a rather finicky process.
“That would be great!” he said. Then about 24 hours later another text – “Hey, no need to come over, I already did it and the car is running beautifully!”
So how … when … who … I had to call him and find out … “Hey, who showed you how to do the tune-up?”
“YouTube!” he said “It was a simple video and really walked me through what parts to buy, how to get the old ones out and set up the new ones. I had it on my phone while I was under the hood and everything went great!”
“Thanks anyway!” he said, probably wondering why I bothered with a call instead of texting him.
So, never mind my descent into obsolescence; it was yet another jarring reminder that information is much, much easier to access and use now than it was just a few decades ago. That’s a good thing, I reminded myself. And truthfully, you should be just as happy because it creates the opportunity for you to access health care that you need for less money and without ever leaving your home!
Internet Health Care, Too?
In 2016, we started a service called BlueCare. It’s a telehealth/online doctor visits platform designed to give you access to a certified physician’s diagnostic capabilities using your smartphone, tablet or PC with a camera. Why is this such a good deal?
First, consider where you might go if you didn’t have a telehealth option. BlueCare is especially great for sinus infections, colds, flu, bladder infections, rashes, allergies, vomiting and pink eye. These are all routine illnesses that need to be taken care of quickly but don’t count as a true emergency. Without BlueCare, if it’s outside your doctor’s regular office hours, you might schlep to the emergency room or urgent care because it’s the only place open. More than half of all emergency room visits are for non-emergencies. With the average ER visit costing well over $1,000 and the average urgent care visit pushing $200, telehealth visits, which are typically significantly less than $100*, represent a real bargain. And you don’t have to leave your home, fight traffic and sit in a waiting room to get care, either.
Seniors often tell me about the challenges they have in getting transport when they need medical care. To help respond to that, we provide BlueCare to our Medicare Advantage population so that individual members can use the service with $0 copay for medical visits. Retirees in Medicare Advantage groups typically only have to pay $40 or less for online behavioral health services through BlueCare.
Second, many of us travel, and when you get sick or need care away from home, it can be quite stressful. BlueCare is accessible from all 50 states, and they’ll even help you find a nearby pharmacy if you need a prescription. And if BlueCare is in your network, it’s always in your network, no matter where in the country you might travel and whether your other medical benefits are good outside of Louisiana.
Third, it’s not all that unusual here in Louisiana for us to have events that limit our ability to travel or disrupt our ability to get to care. Floods in 2016, Hurricane Laura in 2020, Hurricane Ida in 2021 and two years of pandemic closings and re-openings have taught us that our health care system needs to be more flexible. BlueCare is a great reflection of that concept. Anywhere in the U.S. you have a smartphone, tablet or PC with internet service and a camera, you can access care.
Finally, it’s not just basic medical care that you can access through telehealth . Since 2020, Blue Cross has greatly expanded the number and type of providers in our network who can treat patients this way – including dietitians, chiropractors, behavioral health providers, dentists and occupational, speech and physical therapists. Ask your providers about telehealth options – chances are, they offer more now than they did pre-pandemic.
AND Behavioral Health? 🤯
Did you know more than HALF our members’ telehealth visits in the past year were for mental health appointments and other behavioral health services? Think of the power of having online counseling on your phone or tablet, no matter where you are! Let’s face it, when the scourge of depression starts to take its toll on us, we are seldom in the mood to drive to a doctor’s office, especially if we live in areas without a lot of mental health providers nearby, or if we feel more comfortable having this appointment from the privacy of home. BlueCare and network mental health providers are there with online appointments so you can get treated without leaving your home. That’s powerful stuff.
Someone told me the other day that loading up the BlueCare app and logging in to make sure it worked was a part of their annual hurricane preparedness checklist! I thought that was a really smart idea and have added it to my list. You should, too. In the event you need to leave home or power outages and storm damage prevent health care facilities near you from opening, BlueCare and telehealth services can really come in handy to help you stay on top of your health care needs.
The Straight Talk is, BlueCare really is a new way of giving us new knowledge, new delivery of information, and the potential of better health. I don’t have to feel obsolete; I can just use the new knowledge and delivery to improve my life and health. Download the BlueCare (one word) app today (Apple or Android), set up your login, and be ready for anything! You should also ask any providers you see regularly for care about their telehealth services – odds are, it’s more than it was pre-pandemic.
*How much you pay for a telehealth visit depends on your plan type and benefits.