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What is Telemedicine?

Telemedicine is the delivery of healthcare services from a healthcare provider connected over the telephone with a patient who needs treatment. The appointment, diagnosis and treatment plan are all discussed during the appointment, which can be conducted via phone call or video chat.

Telemedicine is also referred to as telehealth because more and more doctors, nurses and patients are using the service for services beyond medical appointments but for physical therapy, mental health treatment and more.

How is telemedicine impacting healthcare and insurance

As technology advances, telemedicine and telehealth services are poised to transform the way many of us receive healthcare. By receiving non-emergency medical care over the phone, many of us can save time and money that would otherwise be spent setting up appointments, commuting and actually meeting with a doctor. We can log on to our telemedicine provider 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and seek an appointment with a physician right away. Even better, for routine matters that require a prescription, the physician can call the prescription into the pharmacy of choice for pick up.

How Do I Talk to A Doctor?

Typically, the patient (or legal guardian) will request an appointment with the telemedicine provider and then a physician will call the patient. The doctor and patient will discuss the symptoms and the doctor will ask many questions about the symptoms and treatment already received. Once the physician has made a conclusion about the diagnosis, they will communicate their decision and if a prescription is required, they may order a prescription from the pharmacy of the patient’s choice.

What Conditions Does Telemedicine Treat?

There is a surprising amount of conditions that can be treated via telemedicine. It can be a quick and effective way to handle routine illnesses like a cold or flu, sinus or bacterial infections, conjunctivitis (pink eye), yeast infections, bladder infections and more. Telehealth professionals can treat patients for allergies, skin infections, rashes, moles, acid reflux, and arthritis as well. In addition, mental health conditions such as depression, grief, anxiety, stress and more are frequently treated through telehealth providers.

It is important to remember that telemedicine does not cover emergency situations like heart attack, stroke, accidents or injuries. For emergency situations, review your health insurance network options and consider whether you should go to urgent care or the emergency room.

Who Uses Telemedicine?

The people who benefit the most from telemedicine and telehealth appointments are those who are not able to go into a doctor’s office and require routine care that can be handled by a telemedicine provider.

Telemedicine is particularly helpful to those who are pressed for time. For example, workers who cannot afford to take time off for a doctor’s office visit can call a telemedicine provider and resolve routine health matters over the phone at a time they prefer.

Approximately 20% of U.S. residents live in rural areas and travel great distances to see a doctor. Because it can take so much time to travel and receive the routine care they need, many of these patients go without care. The U.S. government is so concerned about this issue that the Federal Communications Commission is spending $100,000,000 to expand access to telemedicine to rural areas.

How Much Does Telemedicine Cost?

Although each telemedicine program is a little bit different, you can expect to pay a monthly fee that starts around $19.99 per month for an individual and slightly more for a family plan. There is usually a cost for each telephone appointment which ranges from $20-$40. Telemedicine is not insurance so any costs from the telemedicine will not apply toward the deductible or be discounted by a health insurance network.

Can I Submit My Telemedicine Bill to My Insurance Company?

Unfortunately, telemedicine and telehealth services are not typically covered by insurance. Look closely at your insurance policy to determine if it covers telemedicine or telehealth. If you can’t find out, feel free to call their customer service number to see if this service is covered.

Can Online Doctors Use Facetime?

While most telemedicine is conducted over either a mobile phone or landline, telemedicine is evolving to allow for video use, too. Some telehealth providers are video-capable and can conduct the appointment from Skype, Facetime and other online video applications.

There are certain uses for video appointments that may be particularly helpful. For example, physical therapists can demonstrate real-time exercises and techniques much better via video than they would be able to over an audio-only call. Some telehealth providers are video-capable and can conduct the appointment from video applications so long as they are HIPAA (health privacy protection laws) compliant. If you’re worried, always ask your provider, whose responsibility it is to ensure whichever platform being used, Zoom, FaceTime, Skype etc., maintains the privacy of your health.

How Can I Buy Telemedicine?

Telemedicine can be purchased online at or through other sites that sell telemedicine. If you have insurance from your employer, check to see if your employer’s plan provides you with telemedicine services. If not, there are many affordable options available. If you are looking for a telemedicine plan, some things to think about are the types of services included. Some telemedicine providers focus on routine medical appointments while others offer more services like physical therapy, diabetes counseling, mental health, dialysis counseling and more. Review the doctors and providers listed to determine if they fit any specialist needs that may arise.

How Does A Telehealth Provider Get Doctors?

Like any other business, telemedicine and telehealth providers recruit doctors, nurses and practitioners who they believe have the skills and training to provide the best outcomes for the patients.

Does My Doctor Use Telemedicine?

The best way to know if your doctor uses telemedicine is to call their office and ask. Another way to find out which doctors are in the telemedicine network is to contact the telemedicine provider and either look up the doctors online or call in and ask. Many times, the doctors will vary with a telemedicine provider because they are scheduling doctors to cover peak and non-peak hours for appointments. As a result, the doctors typically do not have standard hours but work around the needs of consumers as determined by the telemedicine provider.

Is Telemedicine Popular?

There has been a lot of speculation that the increased use of technology and especially mobile technology would drive patients to using more and more telemedicine and telehealth services.

Approximately 77% of adults in the U.S. own a smart phone, which would enable easy access to telemedicine and telehealth services. However, adoption has been slower than predicted. Even so, the use of telemedicine and telehealth is growing. In part, the growing rate of telemedicine is due to awareness. Until patients try the telemedicine and telehealth services, they are not sure of the quality of the service or the outcomes. As more telemedicine users share their experiences, more people will likely be open to trying it.

It will come as no surprise that millennials are particularly keen to use telemedicine. Millennials are known to have close relationships with their technology and to have a high trust factor with information gained from their devices. As such, 60% of millennials support replacing routine doctor office visits with a telemedicine or telehealth appointment.

What is Teladoc?

Teladoc Health is a telemedicine provider. Teladoc Health is a publicly traded on the New York Stock Exchange. The name Teladoc has become somewhat linked with telemedicine because Teladoc has been in the business for quite some time. Teladoc Health is one of many telemedicine and telehealth providers to consider when purchasing telemedicine.

What’s Next for Telemedicine?

Telemedicine and telehealth services will grow with consumer demand. In order for the industry to grow and implement innovative solutions, telemedicine providers must reach out to consumers to raise awareness about the benefits and the affordability of their services. Technologically speaking, video chats already exist and are becoming more popular as a means of conducting an appointment. Technology can also help telemedicine grow through the use of electronic medical records where physician share data related to a patient’s prognosis and treatment.


Telemedicine and telehealth are an affordable way to have access to doctors who are available online by using a telephone or video application.

Please Note: Telemedicine does not replace the primary care physician, and telemedicine providers reserve the right not to prescribe medications including DEA controlled substances.

Learn More About Telemedicine

  • talk to a doctor online or in person, doctor wearing white coat with a stethoscope working on a smartphone
    It's exciting to see how technology has evolved and improved health outcomes for residents nationwide. One prime example is telemedicine: You can set up a virtual appointment with a doctor across the country, get an immediate diagnosis, and receive treatment so you can feel better. Telemedicine is made possible through technology like laptops, smartphones, apps or video chat systems. People have been turning to virtual medicine as a convenient and affordable alternative to traditional doctor visits. And several major insurance companies include telemedicine in their covered services and encourage policy members to use this option if it fits their situation. But in many cases, seeing a doctor in person makes sense. So which is right for you? Let's cover the pros and cons of talking to a doctor online versus seeing a doctor in person. What is telemedicine? Telemedicine services, like appointments, prescriptions and diagnostic testing, are delivered online through board-certified licensed doctors across the country. In other words, it connects you with medical professionals in real time by phone or online. But it's important to note that telemedicine is used for non-emergency health situations. People living in rural or remote locations have found telemedicine to be especially beneficial. Rural residents typically travel long distances for basic and specialized health care. But rural residents are now seeing an increased access to doctors and services, thanks to telemedicine. What can online doctors treat? Online doctors can diagnose and treat common medical needs such as: Cold, flu and other viruses Infections, rashes and allergies Prescription drugs and refills Chronic condition maintenance for diabetes, blood pressure and more Treatment for some mental health issues like depression and anxiety Routine follow-up visits after a surgery or an illness Educational appointments to explain how to use an inhaler, for example Sharing of health data through digital devices The specific services and prescriptions that online doctors offer to virtual patients vary on a state-by-state basis. The federal government has set basic guidelines for the regulation of telemedicine services, which are intended to steer state governments to create their own local legislation. Most states have additional regulations governing which types of services and prescriptions a resident can receive online, especially for a first-time prescription or therapy. As an example, Kansas is one of the only states that gives virtual doctors some flexibility with prescription medications. The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) oversees regulations and recommendations concerning telemedicine and related virtual health services on the national level. Virtual doctor vs. in-person doctor: What's the difference? One obvious difference between online doctors and in-person primary care physicians is that online doctors cannot physically examine patients. And though virtual doctors can prescribe most medications, controlled substances can rarely be prescribed online due to a national rule developed to combat the current opioid epidemic. Both traditional medical care and telemedicine services have pros and cons that patients should evaluate before choosing which type best suits their medical needs. And the truth is: You shouldn't replace your physician with an online doctor. So it's wise to maintain regular appointments with your in-person physician. That said, the pros and cons include: Pros of telemedicine Convenience: You can access high-quality virtual services from the comfort of your own home with nothing more than your mobile phone. Speed: Virtual appointments can be scheduled sooner and completed faster than in-person appointments. And you don't need to worry about traveling to a doctor's office or waiting in line. Access: Patients can make immediate appointments with an array of specialized doctors nationwide, and receive care 24/7, 365 days a year. Affordability: Telemedicine services often cost less than their equivalent in-person medical care. Privacy: Telemedicine services must adhere to HIPAA privacy rules, which means your medical information will be safe and secure. Cons of telemedicine Limited services: Online doctors can only diagnose and treat basic medical services, not complex conditions. Limited assessments: Since you're not being seen in person, online doctors can't conduct comprehensive physical exams. Limited physicians: Not all physicians participate in telemedicine programs. Limited with prescriptions or tests: In most states, telemedicine doctors can't prescribe all medications or conduct certain medical tests. Resistance to technology: Both doctors and patients must be able to use technology to connect with each other and conduct a telemedicine appointment. This can lead to resistance from patients who may not be comfortable using technology or doctors who don’t want to change their practice patterns. Pros of seeing a doctor in person Ability to conduct physical exams: The biggest benefit of seeing a doctor in person is the ability of the doctor to physically examine the patient - a more comprehensive way to diagnose and treat health conditions. Consistent patient-doctor relationship: Your primary care physician is typically someone you know and trust with your health care needs because they understand your health status and medical history. Offers care for emergencies: You should always call 911 if you're facing a medical emergency. Online doctors can't treat you in these types of situations. Cons of seeing a doctor in person Wait times: Longer lead time is typically needed to see a doctor in person. Then, you may face longer wait times once you're in the waiting room to see the doctor. Higher costs: In-person appointments can be more costly than online appointments. One study estimated that patients save approximately $100 on an average telehealth visit, with $75 of that devoted to health care costs and the other $25 to travel and time spent seeking care. Geographic limitations: Most people can only afford to see doctors who live in their nearby area. If you need a specialist, seeing the right doctor in person may not be an option. Which type of medical care is right for you? Having both a primary care doctor and telemedicine can improve the quality of your healthcare and gives you access to a doctor for almost every medical scenario. Ask yourself these questions when determining whether an online doctor or in-person doctor is right for your situation: Is my medical condition an emergency? Will I potentially need a prescription for my condition? Does my insurance company offer telemedicine benefits? What are the out-of-pocket costs to see a doctor vs. book an appointment with a doctor online? What are my state's laws on telemedicine? Learn more You can get a Teladoc quote and purchase a plan through our site. The process is easy and takes minutes. You can also see how Teladoc works by checking out the steps needed to set up a Teladoc account.
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  • telemedicine 101, patient video chatting with doctor on a smartphone
    Imagine waking up feeling achy, fatigued, and congested. You check your temperature, and it’s confirmed: You have a fever - possibly the flu. So which is it? The good news is you don’t have to get out of bed and travel to see a doctor to figure it out. Today we have telemedicine, which connects you with medical professionals by phone or online. And it’s no secret that a fever or the flu is nothing to ignore, so an online doctor can give you a diagnosis and treatment through telemedicine. What is telemedicine? Simply put: Telemedicine connects patients with medical professionals in real time by phone or online. Thanks to telemedicine, medical professionals can now evaluate, diagnose and treat patients using technology like video conferencing and smartphones - all without the need for an in-person visit. But it’s important to note that telemedicine is used for non-emergency health situations. How does telemedicine work? Most telemedicine companies, like our partner Teladoc, require you to set up a quick account and provide your medical history before agreeing to treat you. Think of it like a standard doctor visit as a new patient: Expect questions like, “What are your symptoms?” “What’s your family medical history?” or “List the medications you’re currently taking.” Note, telemedicine companies are required to use HIPAA compliant software to certify that your personal health history is protected. Once you’ve set up an account and filled in your medical history, scheduling an appointment is as easy as opening an app from your smartphone, and once confirmed, entering into a video or FaceTime conversation with the doctor. Within minutes, the doctor can diagnose your medical issue, develop a treatment plan, and prescribe any necessary medication. What conditions do telehealth doctors treat? Virtual doctors can treat nearly any non-emergency illness such as: Cold and flu Sinus infection Fever Nausea and vomiting Asthma Skin conditions like hives and rashes Women’s health issues Men’s health issues Allergies Migraines What are the benefits of telemedicine? For patients: Access doctors who accept your insurance. Get care from the comfort of your own home. Increases access to care, especially to those living in rural areas or have little or no means to transportation. Saves on transportation costs. Reduces the need to take time off of work. Spend less time in the waiting room. Cuts down on the spread of disease, keeping fewer sick people from public waiting rooms. Saves on healthcare costs overall. In fact, one study estimated that patients save approximately $100 on an average telehealth visit, with $75 of that devoted to health care costs and the other $25 to travel and time spent seeking care. How much do telemedicine appointments cost? The cost to receive telemedicine services will vary depending on your health insurance plan and the reason for your visit. As an example, here are certain medical visit costs for an individual living in the Chicago area and staying in-network: 15-minute doctor’s office visit for an established patient: $98 20-minute doctor’s office visit for new patient visit: $81 Emergency room visit for a low to moderate problem: $388 50-minute mental health check: $147 And here are average provider costs across the nation: The average cost of a traditional on-site doctor visit: $146 The average cost of an emergency room visit: $1,734 The average cost of a telehealth visit: $79 It’s important to note that telemedicine is not insurance, though. Instead, it’s a way to provide you with virtual healthcare services 24/7. Who are the doctors? The doctors who treat you are board-certified doctors who live in the United States and are licensed to practice in your state. The doctors go through rigorous training and credentialing, so you’ll always get expert advice on your non-emergency medical condition. Can online doctors treat emergencies? You should not use telemedicine if you’re experiencing a medical emergency. Always call 911. Can online doctors prescribe medications? Yes, telemedicine doctors can write prescriptions for many conditions like sinus infections, colds, allergies, some STDs and more. It’s important to know that telemedicine providers reserve the right not to prescribe medications, including DEA controlled substances. While telemedicine is a convenient way to get care, it should not replace your primary care physician. Is telemedicine safe and secure? Like your primary care physician, telemedicine companies have to comply with all relevant state, national, and international regulations, including the U.S. Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). Unless permitted or required by law, your medical information will not be shared without your consent. What do I need for my first telemedicine visit? We've put together a handy checklist to help you prepare for your first visit. How can I check if I have telemedicine benefits? Review your health insurance plan to find out if you have access to telemedicine services and providers. How do I sign up for telemedicine? If you don’t already have telemedicine benefits, you can get a Teladoc quote and purchase a plan through our site. The process is easy and takes just minutes And be sure to check out what Teladoc patients are saying about telemedicine.
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  • five ways telemedicine impacts healthcare, stethoscope with building blocks of medical icons
    It's no secret that the healthcare industry is changing every day. Medical professionals and healthcare leaders are consistently pursuing ways to improve health outcomes, services, and costs. One big advancement worth talking about is telemedicine. While it's not necessarily a new concept, telemedicine delivers both convenience and cost savings for many people, resulting in a recent surge in its popularity. Here are five ways telemedicine is impacting healthcare: 1. Telemedicine can be a cost-effective option for patients. The cost to receive telemedicine services will vary depending on your health insurance plan and the reason for your visit. Still, it tends to be a cheaper option than seeing a doctor in person. In fact, one study one study estimated that patients save approximately $100 on an average telehealth visit, with $75 of that devoted to health care costs and the other $25 to travel and time spent seeking care. HealthLeaders Media also reported savings between $309 to $1,500 in emergency room costs. So instead of going to the ER for something as simple as a cold, you can speak to a doctor by phone or video chat and receive the same treatment - potentially at a lower cost. In certain cases for elderly care, a patient can receive rehabilitation at home rather than at a retirement home or assisted living facility. Some facilities use telemedicine monitoring through cameras and analytical software — which enables providers to gather data and hold remote consultations with the patient to monitor his or her treatment and overall health. This option can result in cost savings over time. Some evidence also suggests that telemedicine may also improve healthcare outcomes for the elderly. Staying in the comfort of their own homes appears to increase their overall well-being. 2. Telemedicine increases patient engagement. With telemedicine care, you can review your treatment plan and medical records in real-time, allowing you to ask questions to your assigned virtual doctor. Plus, scans and results can be sent directly to you. Certain telemedicine companies have even created apps to better organize your medical information and health goals all in one place, which may help you: Store personal health information and vital signs Schedule medicine reminders Record caloric intake and track physical activity These time-saving technology measures encourage patients to become more engaged in their overall health. This is especially meaningful if you're dealing with a chronic condition such as diabetes, heart problems, or behavioral health. 3. Telemedicine expands access to care for rural residents. Telemedicine can make an impact in rural areas, especially. Approximately 62 million Americans—or 1 in 5 people—live in rural areas, with just 9% of all physicians practicing in these settings. That means there’s room for improvement. Our government leaders recognize these concerns, so they've invested significantly in expanding telemedicine services in small towns. One area of development is stroke prevention. Some research shows using telestroke networks in remote places helps reduce instances of strokes. Telemedicine can offer convenient access to medical care that may not otherwise be available to rural residents. If you’re in a rural community, you may have to travel long distances or take precious time off of work to get the care you need. So the bottom line is: Access to ongoing healthcare and monitoring services can improve health outcomes in rural areas. 4. Telemedicine makes healthcare more convenient Let's face it: Visiting your doctor or dealing with unpredictable wait times at an urgent care facility isn't always convenient. Instead, it's nice to get care from the comfort of your own home. Telemedicine may offer faster diagnosis and treatment since you can make an appointment online and avoid sitting in a waiting room. Or maybe you don't want to bump into other patients or spread your illness. Telemedicine and telehealth services can happen 24/7, making them practical and convenient. 5. Telemedicine makes mental health services more accessible Nearly 50% of adults in the United States will have a mental health incident in their lifetime. But if you can't access mental health experts or are worried about the possible stigma of receiving care, you might avoid getting treatment. Certain telemedicine services might include mental health services at a reasonable cost through teleconferencing, phone communication, or text messaging. Therapists can deliver cognitive therapy via video chat and send reminder messages to take medications, or forward the session recording to another specialist for a second opinion. In many cases, telemedicine and telehealth mean the same thing: Health care delivered through technology. But telehealth services may have expanded coverage for certain illnesses, mental health support, and educational services. One well-known telemedicine company is Teladoc. Treatment plans and methods vary, so it's important to know what's covered through your telemedicine provider. What is telemedicine anyway? Telemedicine combines traditional medical care with technology to deliver patient services remotely via phone call or online video chat - the method of communication is in the control of the patient. In other words, telemedicine offers patients easy access to doctors and specialists at any time. Telemedicine delivers the same care you'd receive face-to-face without the hassle of traveling long distances, taking time off work, or being too sick to leave your home. And depending on your telemedicine plan, you may be able to talk to a doctor online within a few hours of signing up. Anyone can take advantage of telemedicine, but the services provided may not fit all needs. Virtual doctors typically treat non-emergency illnesses such as: Cold and flu Sinus infection Fever Nausea and vomiting Asthma Skin conditions like hives and rashes Women’s health issues Men’s health issues Allergies Migraines And if security and privacy is a concern, know that all telemedicine providers must be HIPAA-compliant. HIPAA requires that a patient's medical information remain confidential. Telemedicine does not cover emergencies If you have a cold or flu, consulting with an online doctor is a quick way to receive treatment. For those with sinus infections, strep throat, or bladder infections, you can benefit from telemedicine, too. But if you have a life-threatening emergency or accident, telemedicine isn’t the answer. Some types of emergencies include broken bones, heart attacks, and strokes. For emergency medical concerns, calling 911 is always your best bet. Telemedicine is available anywhere, any time Telemedicine is for people living in urban and remote areas. Rural residents may have limited access to doctors and specialists, making telemedicine a good answer. Other people who benefit from telemedicine are people experiencing an insurance gap who need an affordable way to get basic medical care, or those unable to request time off work to see a doctor. What does the future of telemedicine look like? As technology continues to advance, it’s likely that the use of telemedicine will continue to increase. A white paper, published by FAIR Health, showed that telehealth grew by 1,393% between 2014 to 2018. That said, the future of telemedicine looks bright. Still, there are some issues to overcome. The first is low awareness: Many people don't realize telemedicine might be a good option for them. The second challenge is that people may shy away from the technological aspect. We're often used to the traditional face-to-face interactions with our doctors, so getting care online or by phone may make patients uncomfortable, even though it can be just as effective in many cases. Also, some health insurance companies don't offer telemedicine services quite yet. Is telemedicine right for you? The question of whether telemedicine is right for you depends on preferences and health situation. If you prefer face-to-face communication with a doctor or need more extensive care, it may not be the answer. But if you live in a rural place, you're short on time, or in between health insurance coverage, telemedicine offers access, convenience, and lower cost. The choice is up to you and your health needs. Get a telemedicine quote today Though it's a relatively new concept to many, finding a telemedicine company is easier than you think. Costs for telemedicine vary by age, gender, and location, ranging anywhere from $10 to $20 a month for individuals. Beyond this monthly fee, you also should consider costs for a telemedicine appointment. Start bygetting a quote of costs and services provided through our telemedicine partner, Teladoc. Signing up is easy and takes only a few minutes. Teladoc provides you with a national network of licensed medical professionals who can help you with routine care, personal wellness, physical therapy, mental health and more.
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