Massachusetts BCBS backs physician email 'visits'

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Blue Cross and Blue Shield (BCBS) of Massachusetts will triple to more than 500 the number of physicians in its Internet-based consultant pilot program.

BCBS will add primary-care physicians with Caritas Christi Health Care and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston and Bay State Health System in Springfield.

BCBS currently pays $19 to participating physicians and BCBS members make $5 co-payments for an Internet-based consultation. RelayHealth - formerly Healinx - provides billing and Internet portal service that connects physicians and their patients.

RelayHealth tracks the number of charged visits on a monthly basis and sends checks to the participating physician. The company says approximately 5,000 physicians use the portal nationwide and approximately 2,000 third-party payers, such as BSBC, reimburse for online visits.