televideo, telemedicine, technology, smartphone, mental health, behavioral health, tech

Aetna to expand televideo services across the U.S.

May 22 2017

Aetna will expand televideo to self-insured plans in every state in the United States, increasing access to behavioral health services and resources.

“Access to quality behavioral health services is critical to our members’ wellbeing, as well as their overall physical health,” said Hyong Un, M.D., chief psychiatric officer for Aetna. “Having televideo-based mental health services is just another example of our continued effort to improve access and provide choices to our members in how they access behavioral health services.”

Televideo counseling services are currently offered through Aetna Resources for Living and to fully-insured behavioral health members in 34 states that mandate coverage.

Fully-insured and self-insured plans are two different ways to pay for health benefits. In a fully-insured plan, an organization pays a premium to an insurance company, which covers claims by employees. In a self-insured plan, the organization pays for employee claims and the insurance company (Aetna) administers their plan.

The expanded televideo service will be made available to self-insured plan sponsors who have a behavioral health benefit with Aetna starting Oct. 1, 2017. There is no change in benefit structure or cost. A plan sponsor can opt out if they believe televideo is not a good fit.

Televideo, or telemedicine, involves having a remote patient-doctor consultation through technology, such as videoconferencing on a smartphone, tablet or computer. The service offers convenience and is attractive to people with busy schedules, for rural residents or for the sick or elderly that can’t travel easily.

The expanded televideo services will be provided through Arcadian Telepsychiatry, Inpathy and MDLive. The providers will use the American Telemedicine Association guidelines to assess whether televideo services are clinically appropriate for the member.

“We are looking for these services not to just meet the needs in underserved areas, such as rural or frontier locations where behavioral health resources are limited, but also as a strategy to increase access in urban areas, where traffic, parking and long work hours are barriers to access,” said Mark Friedlander, M.D., M.B.A., chief medical officer for Aetna Behavioral Health. “These services may also increase the likelihood of members engaging more actively with professional help.”