CareFirst BCBS commits $1.3M in telemedicine projects to fund expansion of behavioral health services in underserved areas of Md., D.C.
CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield (CareFirst) has pledged to invest more than $1.3 million in four initiatives designed to expand the use of telemedicine to treat patients with behavioral health care needs in underserved urban and rural areas of Maryland and Washington, D.C.
Lack of Qualified Providers Demonstrate Need for Telemedicine Services
In some portions of CareFirst’s mid-Atlantic service area, access to and a lack of qualified providers make it difficult for patients to get the behavioral health care services they need. CareFirst’s grants seek to eliminate barriers to quality health care for underserved populations, particularly those in urban and rural communities.
Responding to a request for proposals CareFirst issued last October, the following community health organizations demonstrated the demand for their telemedicine services, need for CareFirst’s funding, benefit to their community and sustainability of their treatment model:
- Catholic Charities of Baltimore will use its $53,479 grant to provide behavioral health services to about 120 underserved children and adults in Baltimore City and Anne Arundel and Allegany counties using video-conferencing technology;
- Atlantic General Hospital on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, in partnership with Baltimore’s Kennedy Krieger Institute, will use its $189,656 grant to provide initial evaluations and follow-up visits to about 325 children and young adults with learning disabilities and behavioral disorders in Worcester, Wicomico and Somerset counties;
- La Clinica del Pueblo of Washington, D.C., will receive $424,635 to expand remote access to its bilingual counselors and health care providers through teleconferencing to about 650 patients in the D.C. area; and,
- Baltimore’s Sheppard Pratt Health System will use its $647,200 grant to provide about 1,200 patients of federally qualified health centers in Worcester, Somerset, Garrett, Cecil, Caroline and Dorchester counties with access to psychiatrists via teleconferencing and video-conferencing.
Telemedicine Program Overview
During the next three years, CareFirst’s funding seeks to help health care providers treat nearly 2,300 children and adults who suffer from substance abuse, autism and other behavioral health disorders. Each program will use telecommunication technology – including video-conferencing telephone and other electronic communications — to give health care providers the ability to assess, diagnose, treat and educate patients remotely.