The other day, my adult son called and asked for some advice.
He wasn’t feeling well, and was leaving for an international trip in just three days. It was the normal stuff – fever, sinus pain, an incessant cough. He felt so ill that he had come home from work. He tried some over-the-counter meds, but they just weren’t working. He continued to get worse.
The problem? He and his wife had just moved to Chicago, and they hadn’t found a family doctor yet. It would take weeks to get an appointment, or untold hours waiting in an urgent care clinic or emergency room.
‘Doctor On Demand'
When he called, I happened to remember hearing something about a company called Doctor On Demand. It’s a telemedicine company co-founded by Dr. Phil and his son, Jay McGraw.
WHAT IS TELEMEDICINE? IT’S A WAY FOR YOU TO SEE A DOCTOR WITHOUT TAKING OFF YOUR PJS OR LEAVING YOUR COUCH.
With Doctor On Demand and other companies like Teladoc and Avizia, you simply download their free app, fill out a medical questionnaire, and then wait for your doctor to appear on-screen. When my son used the service he waited less than five minutes.
The doctor was knowledgeable and professional. She asked lots of questions and diagnosed my son with sinusitis. She even directed the prescription to the pharmacy he had chosen on the medical form and let him know that it would be ready in an hour.
WHEN HE CALLED ME TO LET ME KNOW HOW IT HAD GONE, HIS FIRST WORDS WERE, “I’M NEVER GOING TO THE DOCTOR AGAIN!”
He said that the value in this type of healthcare was enormous. You don’t have to leave home when you feel terrible, the cost is just $49 for a visit, and he felt extremely well cared for by his doctor.
Doctor On Demand also offers professional mental health services in the form of counseling. Melanie Lockert, a CentSai writer who specializes in mental health as it relates to finance, checked it out.
Her initial response was, “It seems like a great option for people who need help and don't want to leave their home. I think access is key! On the other hand, I think there are community clinics that offer more generous sliding scale options such as Affordable Counseling.”
Integrating ‘Doctor On Demand' with your healthcare plan
There's good news about insurance, as well. According to ModernHealthcare.com, “Many large national carriers, including Aetna, Anthem, and UnitedHealthcare, cover virtual physician visits in urban and suburban areas, as well as for their rural beneficiaries.
In fact, most major commercial insurers and self-insured employers will include some kind of telehealth benefit. It's a centerpiece offering for some insurance startups like Oscar.”
‘COPAYS AND DEDUCTIBLES USUALLY APPLY, BUT TOTAL OUT-OF-POCKET COSTS USUALLY DON'T EXCEED $50 FOR A BASIC VISIT.'
Of course, many people want to see their regular physician in-person and will be unlikely to want to substitute in-person care for a video or phone conference. Since telemedicine is new, its accuracy and reliability are still under scrutiny.
Caution is especially important for someone who has serious or chronic health conditions.
However, if you are like me – who has had to see a doctor twice in the last five years – or if you live in a rural area where services are not readily available, then telemedicine is particularly attractive.
Pay just $49 and I don’t have to leave my house? Sign me up!