How to Talk to a Doctor Online

Older woman talks to doctor on laptop
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Telemedicine is not new, but it is more important than ever. There are many ways to chat online with an online health care professional. In addition to providing advice and information, the doctors you see online can even write prescriptions and doctor’s notes.

How Online Doctor Visits Work

There are many different services for talking to a doctor online. Your health insurance company probably recommends one of them. These services are generally not free, but you will often simply have to pay a small co-payment with insurance. If you don’t have insurance, you can still use it for a fee.

Telehealth services are legitimate services providing access to real doctors. You are video chatting with a healthcare professional using your smartphone, tablet or computer. You usually don’t need to make an appointment in advance.

Some situations require practical care, but video tours will allow a doctor to give you advice or an online treatment plan in many situations. Doctors online can even send prescriptions for medication at your local pharmacy, which would normally require a trip to see a doctor in person. However, although online doctors can prescribe antibiotics and anti-allergic medications, they will not prescribe narcotics and pain medications.

Beyond prescriptions, online doctors can often perform laboratory tests. You will need to go to a lab in person, but you can skip the doctor’s office. An online doctor may also be able to write a doctor’s note for you if you need it for work or school and your situation requires it.

If you are concerned that you may have COVID-19 – or just want to get it back at the doctor’s office while you are going there for another reason – a virtual visit is a great way to talk to the doctor without putting yourself and yours others at risk. That is why the CDC, the World Health Organization and many insurance companies recommend telehealth services to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus. Some even renounce the co-payment of telemedicine services.

Even if you don’t want to talk to a doctor right now, it’s worth doing a little quick research and knowing which online doctor service you would use if you need to. You probably won’t want to do this research when you’re already feeling under the weather.

We focus here on the United States, but virtual doctor visits are also available in many other countries.

Check with your health insurer

A man communicates with a doctor via video chat on a smartphone.
TippaPatt / Shutterstock.com

If you are currently covered by health insurance, you should check with your health insurer to find out which online doctor service is recommended or covered by your insurance. This information will likely appear on your health insurer’s website.

For example, most Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield plans consider the doctors you talk to via LiveHealth Online in a network, by covering them for the same co-payment you would pay to speak to your primary care doctor. UnitedHealthcare offers virtual tours for its members. Permanent Kaiser offers video tours with doctors who can access your medical history.

Costs and details will vary between health insurance companies and health insurance plans offered by the same insurer. For more information on your services, contact your mutual insurance company. Your employer may also have more information on the benefits of telemedicine for you. You can also search the web for the name of your health insurer and “online doctor” or “virtual visit” to find information relevant to your particular insurer.

More doctors and hospitals are offering virtual exams than ever. The coronavirus epidemic could be a watershed moment for the telemedicine industry, which will make more medical services available remotely in the future.

Use an app with or without insurance

You do not need health insurance to speak to a doctor online. For example, you can use an application like Doctor on demand, available for iPhone, iPad, Android or in a web browser on your computer. A standard virtual consultation costs $ 75 without insurance. Some health insurance plans will also pay part of the cost. We have loved ones who have used this app in the past and can recommend it.

There are many other legitimate apps that will let you talk to a doctor any time of the day. For example, LiveHealth Online invoice $ 59 without insurance, Teledoc bill $ 49 without insurance, and MDLIVE offers virtual doctor visits that start at $ 75 without insurance.

Even if your insurance does not cover a doctor’s visit online, the price can be quite reasonable if you consider the time you will spend visiting a doctor’s office or an emergency care facility and sit in a waiting room.

Not everything can be done online

Of course, if you have a situation that requires emergency care, you should ignore the doctor’s online visit and go to the emergency room. Likewise, if you’re sure you need in-person care – like getting stitches for a cut – this online doctor visit won’t help much and you may want to go directly to a professional health in person.

Here’s one thing to remember: If you think you have a coronavirus and plan to receive in-person care at an emergency care center or your primary care provider, you should call ahead. Even if you feel sick enough to visit the emergency room, many hospitals and clinics ask you to call ahead to alert them. The hospital can provide the care you need and take precautions to protect others.

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