Making the Smartphone Leap -What You Need to Know About Online Doctor Apps
Have you ever found yourself starting to feel under the weather and unable to get to the doctor? Maybe it happens as you get home from work or in the middle of the night. You try to fight off the symptoms with home remedies, or by getting more sleep, but your efforts are in vain. You’re sick and your doctor’s office can’t give you an appointment until next week.
Even if your doctor’s office had an appointment for you sooner, you might not want to take it. According to a recent study by Harvard Medical School, the average doctor’s visit lasts 121 minutes and costs you $43 every time you wait. Where does that time add up? When you take into account calling to set up an appointment, traveling from your house or apartment to the doctor’s office, sitting in a waiting room with other sick people for an unknown amount of time, spending some time speaking with a doctor who is likely concerned about the dozens of other patients she is seeing that day, and then going home – it’s easy to see where the time goes.
What options do you have? It turns out – plenty. With the advent of telemedicine, speaking with a doctor online is possible and just within a few minutes. Through your smartphone, tablet or computer, you can speak to a doctor in a video chat about your symptoms and often receive a diagnosis and prescription shortly thereafter.
According to the American Telemedicine Association, telemedicine is not only convenient and cost-effective for the patient, but it is also a win for the healthcare industry, as it is effective at monitoring patient progress and can be more cost-effective in the long term.
For patients, telemedicine is hands-down the most convenient way to get medical advice, especially for minor illnesses. Unlike in-person visits, wait times are minimal and users can select their preferred method of communication. Telemedicine is especially useful if you have kids. When your child has a cold or another minor illness (think pink eye, for the third time), instead of rearranging your busy schedule to take them to the doctor, you can schedule an early morning video or phone call.
This extra convenience does not necessarily amount to extra cost. It may actually be the same price or less. An increasing number of insurance companies are offering telemedicine services because they’re cost-effective and encourage patients to make more frequent contact with medical providers, a benefit which reduces long-term health risks. Even if your insurance doesn’t cover telemedicine visits, they tend to be cheaper than your standard doctor’s visit.
Besides consultations for minor illnesses, telemedicine is also good for prescription refills and getting second opinions. Many are turning to telemedicine for advice on nutrition or a new way to speak with behavioral health experts. Since the practice is still relatively new, state governments are still working on legislation regulating the kinds of medications that doctors can and cannot prescribe via telemedicine. Generally speaking, patients need to have seen a doctor in person before receiving a prescription virtually. But once that in-person relationship has been established, patients can get prescription refills through a telemedicine visit. As for second opinions, telemedicine saves patients from going to doctor’s office to doctor’s office when they’re looking for reassurance about a health problem or concern.
American Well and Teladoc are a couple of the established players in telemedicine, but there are also up-and-comers like Oscar, which is an insurance company that offers its members free telemedicine services. Check out this list of the top telemedicine companies to explore some other options. You can also book an appointment on Treato.com.