Remote Medical Consultations

What do you do if the flu hits you on a Saturday and your doctor’s office is closed until Monday?

Or what if you wake up on vacation with watery, pink eyes? Don’t waste time and money on an expensive trip to the ER. Just pick up your smartphone or log into your laptop and schedule a virtual doctor visit instead.

Telemedicine has been around for well over a decade, but as medical costs continue to increase, the industry is taking off. Predicted by some to be the next great wave of healthcare, remote medical consultations may become your new favorite way of getting personalized medical advice.

Keep reading to learn more about virtual doctor visits, get tips on how to find legitimate consultations online and find out what types of services you can receive from a remote physician.

What is telemedicine?

Telemedicine is a relatively new form of health care that offers medical advice, prescriptions and other health care services by linking you with certified doctors online.

It works by using your computer or smartphone to connect to a physician that works for your health insurance provider or an independent telemedical services company.

You provide the doctor with the information he or she needs regarding your current condition, and you receive recommendations and prescriptions to help bring you back to good health.

Common conditions treated through virtual doctor visits include sinus infections, urinary tract infections, pink eye, ear infections, coughs, colds and flu.

Where can I go for a remote medical consultation?

In 2002, Teladoc created a system to connect doctors and patients in real time via the phone or internet. Since then, the process has been improved and more companies have begun offering telemedicine services that are available to people with or without health insurance.

In addition, many health insurance companies offer remote medical consultations in their health care plans. Although many health insurance plans have long included “ask-a-nurse” services, some are now offering the opportunity to consult with a certified physician instead.

If you are in the market for a remote medical consultation with a doctor, first check with your health insurance company to see if your plan includes this service.

Blue Shield of California, Oscar and Aetna are among the dozens of insurance companies offering telemedicine.

If you do not have insurance or it is not a covered benefit, check into the following companies:

  • Call a Doctor Plus offers membership plans for individuals and families for around $20 per month. Additional benefits include a pharmacy discount card, life counselors and coaches, legal and financial services, and online resources including eldercare and childcare advice.
  • 24-7 Call a Doc offers family and individual plans with low monthly fees and a per-consult fee each time you use their services. You may also choose to purchase plans that have no consultation fee for less than $20 per month. You can also choose a $49.99 pay-per-use option that has no monthly membership fee.
  • MD Live offers consultations with doctors, counselors, psychiatrists and dermatologists via phone or video call. They accept many health insurance plans and the following fees may be less if your insurance covers them. Urgent care virtual visits are currently $59, counseling is $99, psychiatry visits are $259 and dermatology consultations are $69.

What to Look for When Choosing a Virtual Doctor

Always check a remote medical consultation company’s policies before paying for services, to make sure they only work with certified physicians.

Generally, you can feel safe obtaining care through a remote medical consultation because these companies employ state-licensed, board-certified MDs fully qualified to provide medical advice.

These doctors may be certified in family practice, internal medicine, emergency medicine or pediatrics and most have many years of experience working in medical practices, hospitals and emergency rooms. They have also received extensive training on how to provide medical care online.

Why do doctors choose to practice medicine virtually instead of in person? These doctors may find themselves with free time due to canceled appointments, or may prefer working at outside of normal business hours.

Some virtual physicians are parents working part-time to spend more time at home with young children, while others are drawn to the industry because it provides relief from the extra stress and expense of running a medical practice.

What can I expect during a virtual doctor visit?

Although the actual process will vary by company, most virtual doctor visits follow a similar order. Be sure to gather any required information before logging on, such as medical history information or the contact info for your preferred pharmacy.

  1. Create an online account with your chosen telemedicine provider. Pay any membership or consultation fees.
  2. Complete your medical history online, over the phone or by faxing a paper form.
  3. Request your video or telephone consultation.
  4. Wait for the doctor to call you, or follow the instructions to connect to a video call. The physician will review your medical record and current complaint before contacting you.
  5. Talk to the doctor about your issue and receive the doctor’s treatment recommendations.
  6. Provide pharmacy information if a prescription is needed.
  7. Follow the doctor’s advice and get well soon!

Risks and Benefits of Remote Medical Consultations

As with any healthcare-related procedure, remote medical consultations come with their own set of risks and benefits. Before using a remote medical consultation service, consider the following:

  • Risks
    • Since the doctor is not physically present with you, some symptoms or conditions may be missed, resulting in a wrong diagnosis and treatment plan.
    • If you are incorrectly diagnosed, you might end up having to pay for a regular doctor visit anyway.
    • A remote physician is not as familiar with you as a doctor you have seen for years.
    • It is not suitable for emergency care situations or certain illnesses that require an in-person test, such as a strep throat swab.
    • A bad internet connection or power loss can interrupt your consultation.
  • Benefits
    • Telemedicine is significantly cheaper than an in-person doctor visit and your insurance may cover the cost.
    • It is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and you are usually speaking to a doctor within minutes of requesting one.
    • You do not have to worry about insurance forms, co-payments or deductibles.
    • Remote medical consultations save time you may have spent waiting on an appointment.
    • There is no need to travel anywhere when you are sick. You can see the doctor from the comfort of your own bed.


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