Hartford, Conn. - Beginning May 3, Aetna will cover online physician-patient communications for members in California and Florida through RelayHealth, a provider of secure online health care communication services.RelayHealth enables online communication between doctors and patients, including clinically based doctor-patient consultations, appointment requests, the ability to get referrals, lab and test results, and electronic prescriptions and medication refills.

As part of the program, Aetna will cover online consultations, called webVisits, between fully insured members in California and Florida and their primary care physicians, if they participate in both Aetna's and RelayHealth's networks. Self-insured employers can opt to have their employees who are Aetna members in these states participate.

"Aetna is enhancing its industry-leading medical management programs for our members. This service complements our strategy of working with physicians to help each member achieve optimal health. It is one more way Aetna is using technology to support physicians' relationships with their patients and make it easier for members to access quality, cost-effective care," says Charles Cutler, M.D., Aetna's national medical director, quality management. "RelayHealth's secure, Web-based physician-patient communication service gives members a new way to access non-urgent health care needs with security and convenience, and physicians tools to efficiently communicate with their patients and manage their care. The structured online questionnaire provides a framework that helps ensure physicians can collect adequate condition-specific information."

RelayHealth is more secure than e-mail, the company claims. Unlike e-mail, which relies on multiple servers across the Internet, RelayHealth uses a single, centrally managed database for doctor-patient communications.

In addition to online consultations, Aetna members can make online appointment requests with their doctors and get referrals, lab and test results through the RelayHealth service. Members also will be able to receive new prescriptions and orders for prescription refills electronically from their physician. Members will be responsible for their office visit co-pay, based on their plan design, for the online doctor visit. There is no charge to members for the other communications services.

Members can access the service through two entry points: www.relayhealth.com or through their physician's Web site if their doctor participates with RelayHealth. On May 3, members can go to DocFind, Aetna's online provider directory available on www.aetna.com, to see which Aetna participating physicians offer RelayHealth services.

"We congratulate Aetna for taking this bold step, and believe it speaks to the connection between our service and health plans that are investing in consumer-focused health plan initiatives," says Giovanni Colella, M.D., president and chief executive officer of RelayHealth. "This agreement with Aetna brings secure, affordable online physician access to more Americans in California and Florida."

Aetna has been involved in online consultations since 2001, when the company participated in the Silicon Valley Employers Forum pilot in California with RelayHealth and several Silicon Valley independent practice associations. The pilot enabled employees to communicate online with their primary care physicians for non-urgent medical consultations.

Source: Aetna

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