Online doctors embrace the use of technology. Using a telehealth platform, patients can talk to a doctor online, get a diagnosis, and receive treatment for a wide variety of medical conditions (more on that below). There are a few ways to get medical services via an online doctor, including text messaging, phone consultations, video chat, and submitting online requests.
Many services will let you send in a message containing your symptoms, current medical condition, or medical concerns and questions directly to a doctor via the online platform. Your messages will be reviewed by a doctor and responded to accordingly. This is the most efficient method if you’re just looking for direct answers to a particular question or a prescription for medications you need.
Alternatively, if you want to actually interact with the doctor in real-time, you can use 1 of 2 methods: phone or video chat. Here’s how that works:
Schedule an appointment for the near future or send in a request for an immediate appointment.
If you request an immediate appointment, then you’ll be put on the waiting list and seen by the next available doctor.
If you schedule an appointment for the near future, most telehealth services will allow you to pick the doctor you want to see. This is a great feature as it will allow you to select a doctor you may already be familiar with and are more comfortable with.
When you see the doctor, they’ll discuss your symptoms or medical condition in depth. You’ll be asked clarifying questions such as medical history or family history, lifestyle habits, diet, and more—anything that’s relevant to your treatment.
The doctor will diagnose your medical condition and recommend a treatment plan suited for your condition.
If you require any medication, the doctor will send the prescription directly to the pharmacy closest to you for pick-up. Most telemedicine services will provide same-day pick-up for medications.
Telehealth services provide a convenient platform that includes all of your medical history and treatment history in one easy-to-access place.
What Types of Services and Areas of Expertise Do Online Doctors Offer?
Online healthcare services treat a tremendous array of non-emergency medical conditions. The list ranges from basic, everyday conditions like the common cold, the flu, or an eye infection to more complicated or chronic medical conditions like type 2 diabetes, asthma, and sexually transmitted diseases. What's more, online doctors' services usually offer therapy for mental health issues like depression, panic attacks, and anxiety. You can find psychiatric and psychological treatments as well as specialists that deal with dermatological issues and allergies.
Here’s just a partial list of medical conditions and services that are available via online doctors' services:
It is important to clarify that online doctors and medical services are not a good solution for emergency medical care. High urgency conditions or situations, including concussions, external bleeding, major psychiatric illnesses, heart attack, suicidal or homicidal thinking, or major burns, should be dealt with by heading straight to the emergency room, going to an urgent care unit, or dialing 911 for immediate emergency assistance.
How Much Do Online Doctors Cost?
There are generally 2 different types of pricing models when it comes to online doctors' appointments and medical services: the monthly plan/membership or the one-off rate.
Some telehealth services offer monthly or annual subscription plans. If you tend to visit the doctor more than once a month, have a chronic condition that needs regular medical attention, or require frequent medications, then a subscription plan is the most cost-effective option for you. These online medical services give you unlimited access to all of the medical services provided for a single flat rate. This is also a good option for people who like to ask a lot of questions, have frequent medical concerns, or like to be in touch with the doctor.
These services can range from $19-$100 per month. You can also sign up for annual plans ranging from $50-$1,200, depending on the services you require and number of people you want to cover (i.e., check out the family plans).
Alternatively, many online medical service providers work on a one-time payment basis. When you use the service, you pay. When you don't, you don't. If you don't generally visit the doctor very often, are generally healthy, or don't have any major medical conditions to worry about, this might be a better option than paying for a full subscription (though not always). Depending on how much the per-service fee is, you may be able to find monthly or annual subscriptions that are cheaper than the one-off fee. So, do your homework.
Prices per visit will also vary depending on the type of doctor’s appointment you want. For example, every day or urgent care appointments will generally cost you less than a mental health session. Prices range from $55 a visit up to $299.
It's also worth noting that many online doctors' services work with your health insurance or employee health plan. If that's the case, the cost of visits, services, and sometimes membership will be covered, making telehealth services an obvious choice.
Why Should I Choose an Online Doctor?
Online medical services are growing in popularity, and it’s not hard to understand why. Here are a few of the benefits of using telehealth platforms over the more traditional doctor’s visit:
You can book an appointment whenever you need one, see the doctor, and get treatment all from the comfort of your own home, your office, or wherever you are.
You don’t have to sit and wait in a doctor’s office or waiting room, wait for an appointment slot to open up, and wait for results. Everything is done on your schedule, and your medical e-card is automatically updated after each visit.
Most telehealth services work with a network of doctors, so someone is available 24/7 to help. Some platforms also offer unlimited messaging, so you can chat with a doctor and ask questions even after you've received a diagnosis.
Finally, telehealth services come at a fraction of what you’ll pay for urgent care or emergency room treatments. In fact, many of these services are cheaper than your average co-pay with your health insurance. With flat monthly subscriptions, you get unlimited access to medical professionals and services whenever you want.
Online Doctors: The Wave of the Future
Telehealth services are providing Americans with an easier, faster, and more convenient way to get the medical treatment they need. And with affordable pricing plans, 24/7 availability, and large networks of compassionate, board-certified, and professional doctors, telehealth is a viable alternative to the traditional medical approach.