Teladoc worked for me
I’ve posted before about Teladoc and the other telemedicine providers. In our highly-technical age, telemedicine, I think, fills a useful niche for providing quick, inexpensive care for minor ailments.
Last weekend I finally got a chance to use it myself to see how it worked.
On Friday I suspected I might be coming down with a UTI (bladder infection). I decided to drink a lot of fluids and see if I could get ahead of the symptoms.
Related post: Self-triage and save money
Saturday morning I knew I had to get a prescription for an antibiotic. Ugh. The last time I had a UTI, I was forced to run around in extreme discomfort for two days before I finally got my $5 worth of Bactrim. The total cost of the office visit plus urine culture? Over $200.
I looked on my insurance company’s (Premera) website to find a nearby urgent care clinic. Many drugstores such as Bartell’s and CVS contract with insurance companies to provide care for minor problems.
Then I remembered Teladoc was a covered benefit. Perfect. I could enjoy another cup of coffee and stay in my pajamas.
How Teladoc works
First, I had to set up an account, I gave my insurance information and a short health history. Then I called the number provided to request an appointment. This can also be done through the website or a smartphone app. (Apple version; Android version).
After my identity was confirmed, I told them my health problem, what state I lived in (prescriptions can only be written by physicians licensed in your state), and the name of my preferred pharmacy.
I had a choice of a video call or just a plain phone call. I chose phone, although video would be better for a problem that required eyes-on assessment, such as a rash or pink eye. Images can be uploaded, however.
I also had a choice if I wanted to schedule the phone appointment or just wait for the next available doctor. It was a Saturday morning, and they were busier than usual, but I was told I could expect a call back within the hour.
Lastly, I was given the pretty generic disclaimer that there was no guarantee the doctor would write a prescription or would be able to resolve the issue with a phone consult.
Then I paid my $30 copay (the same as if I’d seen my regular primary care doctor) and waited for the call.
It came within 20 minutes, and within an hour I had the antibiotic I needed to started feeling better.
For me, Teladoc was so much more convenient than waiting for over 2 hours (or more) at an urgent care clinic.
Other telemedicine options
Teladoc is one of the first telemedicine providers, and it mostly partners with insurance companies like mine. Others don’t require insurance so may be a good option if you are uninsured.
It’s a win-win-win for everyone, at least for convenience and cost. So many urgent care clinics charge huge “facility fees” on top of other charges. And of course going to an emergency department for a minor ailment is expensive and a horrible waste of resources.
Also, I travel frequently, so I would love to have this service available if a health issue came up while I was out of town.
Telemedicine only works for relatively minor problems, such as
- urinary tract infections
- cold and flu symptoms
- respiratory infections
- ear infections
- skin rashes
- pink eye
Common mental health issues may also be treated, such as
- depression and anxiety
- grief counseling
- smoking cessation
I looked at a lot of the reviews for the different telemedicine providers, and one complaint that came up again and again was the patient not getting the prescription they wanted. Physicians are really trying to cut down writing antibiotic prescriptions for problems that don’t need antibiotics, like viral pink eye or bronchitis.
Technical problems also cause complaints. The Teladoc operator told me to make sure my phone didn’t block all unknown numbers, just in case. I didn’t have any issues, however.
Below is a list of the biggest players in telemedicine. Check out their websites for more information.
Also talk to your insurance company’s customer service department, or your employer’s benefits manager, to see if telemedicine visits are covered by your plan.
I’ve listed the cost for a medical visit for someone without insurance. Online therapy visits may cost more.
Not all states support telemedicine, but the individual websites can let you know if your state does.