Blue Cross of GA Uses Google Maps to Encourage Use of Urgent Care

You may have heard of a few enlightened payors who have sent letters to encourage their members to use urgent care instead of the emergency department. That makes perfect sense given the savings of 50-70% with urgent care.

However, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Georgia has taken this a step further by utilizing technology to launch a program aimed at educating their members on their health care options in order to prevent unnecessary ER visits. BCBS hopes to accomplish this through the launch of the website that includes a Google Maps application – which will eventually include an iPhone app – that allows their members to find clinics in their area; online tutorials on whether to visit an ER or urgent care; and information on how to access their 24-hour nurse line for recommendations on where to go and directions to clinics.

"A study of our claims data for fully insured business found that approximately 33 percent of ER visits were in the area of avoidable visits or diagnoses that potentially could have been treated in urgent care centers," Cheryl Monkhouse, BCBS of Georgia's media contact, told Urgent Care News. "At a time when healthcare costs continue to rise, it is becoming more important to educate our members on how to best access ER alternatives and receive the same care with less out-of-pocket cost."

More and more payors are reaching out to their members to educate them on the advantages of urgent care centers. In January of this year, Practice Velocity published a blog post about how United Healthcare issued an online news release educating their members on the very same topic. What's noteworthy of this latest effort by BCBS is their usage of technology to reach their members.

Many consumers are not aware of the cost difference between ER and urgent care visits – the tab for a typical ER visit typically runs three times higher than an urgent care visit. Others aren't even aware urgent care is an option and have made the ER their primary source of medical care, which is causing emergency departments to be hopelessly congested and causing patients to rack up shockingly high medical bills.

The bottom line is that educating consumers on their health care options is a win-win for all, and it's great to see another payor stepping up to the plate by finding creative ways to educate their members on such a vital issue. How can you help? Urgent Care News recommends that you:
1) Contact your BC/BS representative to encourage BC/BS in your state to implement a similar program and
2) forward this article to your BC/BS representative via email.