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First in the Nation, HMSA's Online Care Goes Live
Date:1/15/2009

New statewide Online Care service available to all Hawaii residents.

HONOLULU, Jan. 15 /PRNewswire/ -- The Hawaii Medical Service Association (HMSA) today announced the launch of its new Online Care service that connects patients and physicians via the Internet or telephone. HMSA's Online Care is now available to everyone in Hawaii and may be accessed by visiting hmsa.com. Residents do not have to be an HMSA member to use the service.

"HMSA's Online Care takes health care access to a whole new level, and we're proud that HMSA is the first health plan in the nation to provide its residents with such a revolutionary service," said HMSA President and Chief Executive Officer Robert P. Hiam. "In the weeks and months ahead, we expect many families in our community to experience the ease, convenience and affordability of HMSA's Online Care."

Online Care is aimed at improving access to care throughout the Islands, especially in Hawaii's rural areas. Residents can speak with a local physician from HMSA's network of credentialed participating physicians whenever they need to. Online Care is available anytime, including after business hours, on holidays and weekends. Online sessions are affordable, quick, secure and private. HMSA members can speak with a physician online for only $10. Nonmembers may use HMSA's Online Care for $45 per session.

"HMSA's Online Care is making Hawaii's health care system more accessible to patients by overcoming the constraints of time, distance, mobility, or lack of insurance," said HMSA Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Michael A. Gold. "Our state is an island community with many rural areas, and HMSA's Online Care will help improve access by connecting patients in those areas to physicians statewide."

"This exciting new service will increase access to specialty care for our Neighbor Island residents," said Gold. "It will also improve the quality of health care by making it easier for physicians to keep in touch with patients and monitor their progress over time. Today's launch is just the beginning. In the weeks and months ahead, we will be adding many more health care providers to HMSA's Online Care, such as psychologists, advanced practice nurses, and midwives."

"I commend HMSA for finding new ways to utilize technology to extend physicians' reach into our communities," said Congresswoman Mazie K. Hirono. "With so many rural communities in the 2nd Congressional district, there is the potential for this Online Care program to be of great benefit in increasing patients' access to health care. I wish the program every success."

The launch of HMSA's Online Care follows a long period of testing and early introduction, during which physicians and patients used the system and then reported their experiences. During the introduction period, hundreds of patient-physician interactions were conducted. Eighty-five percent of participants reported favorable experiences with the service, and many patients said they would routinely use the new health care service to maintain their health.

"We're proud to partner with HMSA to improve access to physician care in Hawaii," said Ido Schoenberg, M.D., chairman and chief executive officer of American Well Corporation. "The results from early participants are encouraging and demonstrate that HMSA's Online Care is poised to become a very important option for health care delivery in 2009."

Currently, more than 140 local physicians from a variety of specialties are participating in Online Care. These specialties include general practice, family practice, cardiology, internal medicine, OB/GYN, ophthalmology, pediatrics, psychiatry, surgery, urology and more. As time goes on, HMSA expects more specialties will be added.

Participating physicians are able to log on at their convenience and interact with patients who want to speak with a physician. HMSA's Online Care is flexible and allows local physicians to practice in a way that is both productive and convenient.

Online Care is not intended to replace face-to-face visits with a physician. However, it may be used as an alternative in situations where a patient is not able to visit their physician's office. Because Online Care is available anytime, it may be used whenever a patient needs to speak with a physician right away.

In addition to improving access, the new service supports the delivery of informed, coordinated care through its integration with Microsoft(R) HealthVault(TM). Hawaii residents may use HealthVault to track and share personal health information from many sources, including provider and hospital record systems, home monitoring devices, and patient entries.

"Our collaboration with HMSA and American Well helps ensure that care is informed and closely coordinated among all of the important stakeholders, including primary care physicians," said Peter Neupert, corporate vice president of the Health Solutions Group at Microsoft. "The early success of Online Care in Hawaii can serve as a model nationwide for improving the flow of information between individuals and their care providers."

HMSA is a nonprofit, mutual benefit association founded in Hawaii in 1938. It is governed by a community board of directors that includes representatives from health care, business, labor, government, education, clergy, and the community at large. HMSA is an independent licensee of

the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association. Nationally, HMSA and 38 other Blue Cross and Blue Shield plans provide worldwide coverage to more than 100 million members. For more information, please visit hmsa.com.

    Contact: Laura Lott, HMSA
    Phone:   (808) 952-7566
             (808) 489-0574 (cell)


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SOURCE Hawaii Medical Service Association
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