Virtual Visits Can Save You a Trip to the Doctor

Roni Shye
Roni Shye, PharmD BCGP BCACP, is a licensed pharmacist in the states of Florida, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.
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We use computers and cell phones to do, well, almost everything—so it only seems fitting that you can now have an appointment with a doctor without ever leaving your home.

Telemedicine, the remote diagnosis and treatment of patients by means of telecommunications technology, is cropping up more and more. You have lots of options too, from simple apps to the new telemedicine kiosk, HealthSpot, that Rite Aid just purchased.

Major insurance companies like Highmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield are also suggesting online appointments to their patients. Virtual medicine is a convenient option, available 24/7 when you are in need of quick care for minor illnesses. Take a look at this example ad from Highmark’s page.

What can I expect from a virtual doctor app?

There are several things to keep in mind when deciding which one to use—or whether to go in person to your doctor or to an emergency room.

Essentially—there are a lot of choices. If you’re considering using an app to see a doctor, shop around to find the right one for you.

When should I not use a virtual doctor?

First, and most important, if you think you’re seriously ill or experiencing an emergency, don’t try to see a doctor using an app. Call 911 or go to the emergency room.

You can’t do a yearly physical on any of these services, and most can only help with simple conditions like acne, upper respiratory infections (cold and flu), acid reflux, or urinary tract infections.

So what options are out there?

Many other companies are also out there trying to make a name for themselves by focusing on a specific population—women:

Is there anything else I should know?
Check the restrictions for telemedicine in your state—your insurance plan or Medicaid cover a virtual visit at the same rate as seeing a regular doctor, and even more only require coverage from Medicaid.

Do your research. Make sure the website is secure (look for an “https” in your browser’s address bar), and double check licenses. Your state should have a way to check the licenses for both pharmacies (for those services that will deliver your prescription) and doctors.

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