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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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: