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Telemedicine: Technology can break geographic obstacles

As our region looks for ways to turn back the tide on the substance abuse epidemic, one factor that should be receiving more attention is the number of obstacles to treatment and recovery for those ready and willing to begin that monumental effort.

It seems as though Highmark West Virginia may be partnering with a company that could provide some solutions.

Bright Heart Health can provide telemedicine services that bring the resources of doctors, therapists, case managers, wellness coaches and other providers right to a patient’s smart phone, tablet or home computer, at any hour. That is a big deal for those whose other responsibilities — or a fear of losing privacy — have made it difficult to follow the guidelines of traditional, facilities-based treatment and recovery processes.

Another advantage is the ability to prescribe medications to assist in treatment. According to Dr. Caesar DeLeo, vice president and executive medical director of strategic initiatives for Highmark, approximately eight counties in West Virginia do not have a physician licensed to prescribe such medication. Bright Heart Health can.

“With telemedicine, I don’t have geographic boundaries that prevent me from getting care,” said Bright Heart CEO Jon Ciampi.

This partnership, along with other Highmark programs, will begin to fill in the gaps that kept traditional insurance and medical practice from providing a solution for so many struggling with addiction. After all, many of these folks have, indeed, already fallen through the cracks.

Should the program fulfill its promise, the template could help other health care and insurance providers develop their own best practices for tackling this plague.

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