• Physician House Calls Make Return to Seattle Area

    Latest Offering From Premera Blue Cross to Reduce Costly ER Visits

    MOUNTLAKE TERRACE, WA – (Jan. 26, 2011) – When a physician’s office is closed or an urgent care facility is not available, many people in need of non-emergency medical care turn to the very place they shouldn’t have to— the emergency room of the closest hospital. There they may face long waits while life threatening conditions take precedence. It’s inconvenient and uncomfortable, and it results in potentially higher than needed treatment costs for patients —and for employers who provide health benefits. Premera Blue Cross is continuing to reduce unneeded ER visits with the launch of The Premera Home Visit Program, one component of a strategic approach to improve service and improve healthcare affordability.

    According to Santa Monica based-Rand Corporation, about 17% of visits to emergency rooms are unnecessary and add $4.4 billion in annual U.S. health care costs.

    The Home Visit Program—in addition to Premera’s 24-Hour NurseLine, and the increased visibility of urgent care facilities in members’ local neighborhoods—is another option now available to qualified Premera members. All three represent an alternative to the emergency room.

    “Our nurse line offers members the expertise of a registered nurse who can provide self-care solutions, recommend an urgent care facility, and now evaluate qualified members for a house call,” noted Roki Chauhan, M.D., chief medical officer and senior vice president of Integrated Health Management at Premera Blue Cross. “Each of these options is a viable and effective treatment alternative for non-life threatening conditions.”

    Beginning in February 2011, Premera will offer house calls on a limited basis to qualifying Premera Blue Cross employers and their employees in metropolitan Seattle and surrounding areas. The program is facilitated by Carena, Inc. a leader in home-based medical treatment services.

    Premera’s Home Visit Program builds on the innovative solution that Microsoft, Premera, and Carena, implemented in 2006 for Microsoft members in the Puget Sound area as an alternative to the emergency room.

    Similar to the process soon available to other Premera members, Microsoft employees who have an immediate but not life-threatening need for care can call Microsoft’s 24-hour Health Line. Based on their needs, a registered nurse offers a range of options—including self-care, referral to an urgent care center, a trip to the emergency room, or a house call from a board certified physician.

    For Microsoft, members received prompt care in the home and many times other medical conditions were uncovered during the home visit. The company is now looking towards expanding the program in other markets where it has employees.

    “Emergency rooms are important for life-threatening or other serious conditions,” Dr. Chauhan concluded. “The 24-Hour NurseLine and the new Home Visit program are viable alternatives to the hospital emergency room, particularly after hours or on weekends when a primary care physician may not be available.”

    Source: www.rand.org/news/press/2010/09/07.html 

    About Premera Blue Cross

    Our mission is to provide peace of mind to our members about their healthcare coverage. We provide health insurance and related services to more than 1.5 million people. Premera Blue Cross has operated in Washington since 1933, and Alaska since 1957. Premera Blue Cross is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association. Premera Blue Cross is a member of a family of companies based in Mountlake Terrace, Washington, that provide health, life, vision, dental, stop-loss, disability, AD&D, and other related products and services. 

    About Carena, Inc.

    Carena, Inc. is a team of medical, consumer service, and technology professionals committed to delivering the best health care experience possible. Carena provides health care solutions for self-insured organizations, health insurance companies, and health systems resulting in lower medical costs and high patient satisfaction. Carena’s unique 24/7 services were designed to support the patient primary care provider relationship by providing care and education when the patient’s primary care provider is not available. More information about Carena is available at www.CarenaMD.com. Carena is not a licensee of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association.