Improving Health Care through Technology

Young woman talking with her doctor via a webcam a her laptop.


Telehealth initiative has expanded patients’ access to specialists and supported more than 50,000 patient consultations using technology to give greater access to leading doctors in California.

Medicaid patients often face challenges to receiving health care, such as limited access to transportation and the inability to take time off work. These limitations, among others, may be even more difficult to overcome when patients need specialty care for their health conditions, especially in rural areas. Treatment can be delayed for patients who need quick help, which can make a condition worse and cost more. That’s why we need to explore new ways to increase access to specialty doctors and treatments.

Difficulty scheduling and getting to appointments has increased support for telemedicine as an innovative, cost-effective way to diagnose and treat patients. Using telemedicine to expand access to specialty care, Anthem Blue Cross partnered with the Managed Risk Medical Insurance Board in 1998 to create the Telehealth initiative for Medicaid enrollees in California. This statewide program was designed to enable Medicaid beneficiaries to see the specialists they needed. Many California Medicaid patients live in rural areas that are far away from doctors’ offices and can’t afford to spend time and money traveling to appointments. The California Medicaid Telehealth program helps solve this problem.

To participate in Telehealth, California Medicaid enrollees can visit a local Telehealth site to video chat with specialist doctors, talk through their symptoms, and develop a diagnosis or treatment plan. Using the same system, doctors can securely send a patient’s medical records to other specialists and ask for their opinion to come up with a treatment plan that can be administered locally. Telehealth allows patients and their regular primary care physicians to hear specialists’ recommendations while carrying out treatment closer to home, improving care and the patient experience overall.

As of 2013, California Telehealth has provided more than 50,000 specialty consultations for patients who may not have had access to expert care.