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Telehealth visits have been an essential connection to healthcare for millions of people in recent years. Typically, they consist of a video conversation between doctor and patient. New telehealth tools are helping doctors take these visits even further — giving them real-time patient data like they would get during in-person visits.

Elevance Health offers some members in five of its affiliated health plans the ability to use a remote exam kit during their telehealth visits. The exam kits allow doctors to listen to their patients’ hearts and lungs and see inside their mouths and ears.

A Small Device Makes a Big Difference

Claira Kapraun said “yes” to her health plan’s offer in 2022 to use the remote exam kit they provided. She had no idea how much that decision would simplify the process for her family to get healthcare when they needed it most.

When she received the small box, Kapraun wondered how much of a difference the telemedicine equipment inside would make. The kit included:

  • A palm-sized base device with a built-in camera and thermometer
  • An otoscope adapter to show the condition of the ear, including the ear canal
  • A stethoscope adapter to allow care providers to listen to the heart, lungs, and abdomen
  • A tongue depressor adapter to show care providers the condition of the mouth and throat

The device works with a mobile app to connect the family with care providers privately and confidentially share HIPAA*-compliant images and data. Since they started using these new telehealth tools, her family has obtained care 15 times, mostly for her young children.

Kapraun says she sometimes finds it difficult to know when her family’s health issues are significant enough to be seen by a doctor in person. With a remote exam kit, she can easily get a care provider’s answer to that question.

“To me, my children sound super congested. I use the stethoscope adapter as instructed so the doctor can actually listen to their hearts and lungs,” Kapraun said. “When the doctor tells me their heart rate is normal and their lungs are clear, that puts me at ease. Using our remote exam kit has probably saved us five trips to the doctor in the last year.”

Becoming a Trusted, Go-To Resource

When her husband had a high fever and was too weak to get out of bed, the telehealth tools made it easier to connect to a care provider.

The thermometer showed he had a 104 F temperature. Data from the otoscope adapter allowed the care provider to diagnose him with a double ear infection. Kapraun’s husband was able to get the care he needed without the trip to an urgent care center.

“We were thankful to have this device when my husband got so sick,” Kapraun said. “It’s hard to get him to go to the doctor, but with the device, he didn’t even have to get out of bed to be diagnosed and get the treatment he needed.”

Offering the Opportunity to Additional Members

Elevance Health offers the remote exam kit to some members through its affiliated commercial and Medicaid health plans in California, Georgia, New York, Texas, and Virginia. Having received positive member feedback to date, Elevance Health’s affiliated health plans will offer additional members the opportunity to use telehealth tools.

“Putting digitally enabled tools like these in members’ hands can transform their telehealth visits by instantly transmitting real-time data and images to care providers,” said Dr. Sophie Clarke, who leads clinical strategies and partnerships for Elevance Health. “Incorporating leading-edge devices into telehealth visits can equip care providers and members with the tools to improve health outcomes.”

While the telehealth tools are small, they are making a huge impact on the lives and health of the members using them.

*HIPAA refers to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act

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