BCBS Massachusetts, Carbon Health, and Firefly Health partner for virtual primary care

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Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts members can access mental and physical health visits

Primary care is changing: while primary care physicians are the gateway for people to access their care, younger generations aren’t even seeing a PCP. They either don’t have one and/or avoid annual checkups for years. Millennials, those born between 1981 and 1996, who are 25 to 40 years old, prefer convenience and retail clinics. One in four haven’t had checkups in five years, according to a study. About half of the younger millennials don’t have a primary care provider.

Perhaps that’s why so many established healthcare companies have begun launching their own virtual primary care solution including Teladoc Health and CVS Health. Amazon, meanwhile, recently made one of its biggest acquisitions ever, acquiring primary care provider One Medical for $3.8 billion.

The latest to launch in this space is Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts, which announced on Thursday that it is introducing a new virtual primary care option starting on January 1 of next year, through partnerships with two of the biggest companies in the space: Carbon Health and Firefly Health

The new “Virtual Care Team Feature,” which will be included in the majority of Blue Cross MA commercial health plans, will allow members to receive virtual health care through a team that includes primary care providers who can treat certain mental health issues and provide health coaching. They will also be given a kit from their providers that may include certain medical devices, such as a blood pressure cuff, which will be tailored to the member’s needs.

Founded in 2016, Firefly Health provides services such as holistic care for wellness, chronic conditions, and behavioral health, as well as same-day appointments, 24/7 chat, referrals to specialists, and help with meeting health goals.

Patients can download the Firefly app for free, which gives them access a dedicated care team for virtual and in-person coaching and support, including a medical doctor, nurse practitioner, health guide and behavioral health specialist. The patient can message their team any time, 24/7. Together, the patient and their team build a plan based on their health and goals, after which they can set up regular video or chat check-ins and adjust the plan based on new insights.

While physicians on Firefly practice 100% virtually, the company also allows for in-person visits though its partnership network, which include on-site access to urgent care providers, home care providers, specialty care organizations, such as Dana Farber and Joslin, as well as many specialty partners. 

Carbon Health, which has been around since 2015, combines telehealth and in-person care. With its app, patients can manage appointments, billing, pharmacy refills and lab results from their phone. They can also talk with doctors and staff for quick answers to their questions.

The company also offers primary and urgent care clinics, which don’t require a membership or fees from the patient.

Eligible Blue Cross members will be able to choose their designated virtual PCP through either company and each PCP will provide virtual primary care with integrated mental health and access to in-person care with in-network providers when needed.

The company says there will be a $0 cost share for primary care and mental health visits with designated virtual care team clinicians.

“More consumers are using virtual care and experiencing its benefits, including greater convenience and affordability,” Blue Cross Chief Commercial Officer Patrick Gilligan said in a statement.

“We’re excited to offer members access to two primary care practices offering the most comprehensive virtual primary care models we’ve seen. They go beyond traditional primary care to help members take control of their health in a way that’s convenient and fits their lifestyle.” 

(Image source: healthcareitnews.com)

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