Filling the Gaps of Telemedicine


Wellframe, BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts, and Oliver Wyman share their perspectives on digital care technology.


Editor's Note: This article was originally published by HLTH MATTERS.

In the last several months, we have seen a drastic boom in telehealth usage due to the circumstances created by the COVID-19 pandemic. If the current state of telehealth is any indicator for the future, we may see utilization of all digital care technology expand beyond the traditional four walls. Has health consumer behavior truly changed enough to continue this trend even past the pandemic or will they revert to old ways? Also, what do we do when telemedicine simply is not enough?

This past July, Wellframe hosted a HLTH GoLIVE webinar, Filling the Gaps of Telemedicine, with BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts, and Oliver Wyman. 

During the webinar, the panelists discussed how a unique combination of digital capabilities can help close previous gaps in care. We followed up with the panelists to share their biggest takeaways.

Jacob Sattelmair, Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Wellframe

“Telemedicine solves a lot in terms of convenience and accessibility, but [doctor’s visits] are still a 13-minute encounter where 99.9 percent of someone’s life is in between. We do think that as more people are trained to use digital and virtual channels to access care, and more solutions are coming out to fill in some of those gaps, people will be acclimated to look to digital as a way of getting support, not just when they’re talking to a physician, but in between. And I think those are some exciting opportunities that we see for our partners.”

Andrea Willis, Senior Vice President and Chief Medical Officer, BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee

“We are mostly a rural state. And for the most part, we did see that access was improved because of this rapid expansion [of virtual health]. But it also shone a spotlight on where there were disparate areas as well. We decided that we did not want to miss this moment to actually be a part of true public health. So we gave a grant to the Tennessee Department of Health, for example, to improve access in some rural areas, and we joined with other companies to increase broadband access ... what this has done is brought all the right stakeholders to the table for us to go in collectively to support increased access for everybody.”

Sukanya Soderland, Chief Strategy Officer and Senior Vice President, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts

“What we're starting to see is some of the expectations that consumers have had outside of healthcare, where our lives are run off of our phones, are starting to infiltrate into healthcare. That means a lot of health plans will need to raise the bar, and it's upped the ante for all of us. As far as telehealth is concerned, a lot of the initial responses that I've seen in some of the survey work have demonstrated that consumers have been pretty satisfied with the virtual options that they have in light of COVID-19. But, I don't think that's something we can rest our laurels on at this stage because again, the expectations will continue to rise. We’re going to have to bring a deeper discipline to our offerings moving forward.”

Marcia Macphearson, Partner, Health and Life Sciences, Oliver Wyman

“COVID-19 created a powerful force accelerator for telehealth adoption by providers, patients, and payers that has exposed a much wider set of stakeholders to a substantially different experience of healthcare; if this adoption rate persists it holds the promise to materially shift consumer healthcare behavior which has been long promised but not previously delivered upon. Maintaining telehealth adoption momentum is now a key objective for stakeholders across the industry but will require continued efforts across capability enablement, addressing digital inequity across populations, and reimbursement and policy reforms.”