Commercial payer agrees to cover teledermatology service

November 6, 2014

A Pittsburgh-based national health insurance provider will be the first health insurer in the United States to cover teledermatology. Highmark will reimburse begin reimbursing for online services provided through DermatologistOnCall starting Jan. 1.

Highmark, a Pittsburgh-based national health insurance provider, is the first health insurer in the United States to cover teledermatology, according to a news release.

Highmark, with 5.2 million members in Pennsylvania, Delaware and West Virginia, announced it will reimburse for online services provided through DermatologistOnCall starting Jan. 1. DermatologistOnCall is a Web-based platform developed by Iagnosis, a company founded by McMurray, Pa., dermatologist Mark P. Seraly, M.D.

“Direct-to-patient teledermatology services are a new opportunity for expanding patient choice, enabling unimpeded access to our services, offering convenience to those who don’t want to wait for an in-office appointment, and improving patient satisfaction by eliminating the ‘worry’ factor," Dr. Seraly, chief medical officer of Iagnosis, tells Dermatology Times. "For dermatologist(s), we can now scale our work force in a more meaningful way and offer a broader range of clinical services especially in this highly digital and mobile world that we live.”

Dermatologists affiliated with DermatologistOnCall provide online diagnoses, treatment plans and prescriptions to patients through a secure, HIPAA/HITECH-complaint platform. Iagnosis is a technology provider of online dermatology services, offering 24/7 access to dermatologists’ care.

Whether teledermatology will catch on with other payers is yet to be seen.

As of now, patients for the most part seem unwilling to pay out-of-pocket for telemedicine. A recent telemedicine report by polling platform CivicScience suggests only about 3 percent of people have tried telemedicine in general. CivicScience polled 10,850 U.S. adult consumers this year from Aug. 18 to Oct. 1, asking, “What do you think about paying out-of-pocket for 'virtual' online doctor appointments that allow you to be seen and diagnosed faster for certain health conditions?” Of those polled, 44 percent said “I haven’t done this - but want to try it” and “I don’t have an opinion.” But more than half, 54 percent, said “I haven’t done this - and don’t plan to try it.”

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