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CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield to Invest $1.5 Million in Telemedicine Grants

Grants will increase access to behavioral health care and control patient costs

Baltimore (October 15, 2013) - CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield (CareFirst) plans to invest up to $1.5 million over the next three years to assist health care providers in expanding the use of telemedicine in an effort to increase access to quality behavioral health care including substance use disorders. 

More Information

CareFirst is seeking proposals from community health centers, nonprofit organizations and public health entities in Maryland, Washington, D.C., and Northern Virginia that either have an existing program or are planning new initiatives that expand behavioral health services through telemedicine, particularly in underserved urban and rural areas. Interested organizations must apply by end-of-day Friday, Nov. 22.

Telemedicine uses 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. CareFirst’s initiative aims to focus on innovative technology including video-conferencing capabilities that give providers and patients face-to-face interaction.

“It is CareFirst’s mission to provide quality health care services to the community it serves, and working to identify ways to increase access to care through telemedicine is a natural area of focus to fulfill that mission,” said Maria Harris Tildon, CareFirst Senior Vice President of Public Policy and Community Affairs. “We are focused on proposals that demonstrate an ability to expand access to care through telemedicine which articulates a solid plan for sustainability that would extend beyond our three-year grant funding period.”

In some portions of CareFirst’s mid-Atlantic service area, access and a lack of qualified providers make it difficult for patients to obtain behavioral health care services, including substance abuse disorders. This grant seeks to eliminate barriers to quality health care for underserved populations.  

Organizations that apply for the grant must outline a plan for improvements in patient behavioral health outcomes while increasing access, effectiveness and efficiency in quality care. Applicants may seek funding to create new telemedicine programs or enhance current telemedicine efforts.  

The following criteria will be used to evaluate the applications:

  • Clinical outcomes: Improve quality measures for behavioral health patients, including functional status, quality of life and utilization of telemedicine services.
  • Technical viability: Include accessibility for hearing- and vision-impaired patients and hardware and software systems with Internet connectivity. An electronic health record system is not required.
  • Administrative viability: Identify public or private nonprofit status, community need, cost of implementation, sustainability and ability to protect personal health information.
  • Stakeholder engagement: Ability to provide user-friendly services for patients and provider training.
  • Evaluation: Ability to track and monitor outcomes.

“We really want to encourage organizations to take advantage of this unique opportunity to improve the community’s access to behavioral health,” said Dr. Daniel Winn, CareFirst Vice President and Senior Medical Director. “It’s important for us to find organizations with sound approaches for improving behavioral health clinical outcomes.”

For more information about to how apply and application deadlines, visit www.carefirstcommitment.com.

About CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield

In its 76th year of service, CareFirst, an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association, is a not-for-profit health care company which, through its affiliates and subsidiaries, offers a comprehensive portfolio of health insurance products and administrative services to 3.4 million individuals and groups in Maryland, the District of Columbia and Northern Virginia. In 2012, CareFirst contributed nearly $57 million to community programs designed to increase the accessibility, affordability, safety and quality of health care throughout its market areas. To learn more about CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield, visit our website at www.carefirst.com or follow us on Twitter: http://twitter.com/CareFirst_News.