There’s a lot of conversation and also debate surrounding health care in the U.S., and it leaves families wondering what the right decisions are, how they can get the best care and how to save money in the process.
One option that’s becoming more mainstream for a lot of families and individuals regarding health care is visiting doctors in a virtual setting. Some insurance providers are starting to cover these online services, and there are also companies like Singlecare with discounts on the cost of these services.
So, what should you know about virtual health care and doctor visits?
How it Works
There are quite a few platforms popping up online that provide a direct online connection between health care providers of various types and the patient via their computer, tablet or smartphone. What usually happens is that when you go to one of these sites, you pick the type of doctor you need to see, and you’re connected with someone who’s licensed in your state.
These doctors are also going to be board-certified, and in many cases can order more in-depth testing and also prescriptions for patients, although there are limitations on the types of prescriptions they can write during a virtual visit and some follow-up appointments may need to happen in person.
The concept may seem state-of-the-art, but it’s actually something that’s been happening for a while now. Telehealth has been available to people who are housebound or located in rural areas, and it’s also where the VA has put quite a bit of focus.
With that being said, there is now more of a push for insurers to be required to cover online healthcare visits, which is why it’s getting so much attention.
How Much It Costs
In many cases, patients are finding that it’s less expensive to see a doctor during a virtual visit than it would otherwise be. Depending on your insurance and any programs like Singlecare you might be enrolled in, you may end up owing nothing, or you may be required to pay your standard copay.
It’s estimated that the average for online services is around $40 to $50, and that’s generally about half of what a visit to a primary care doctor is. If you compare these costs to an ER visit, it’s even lower.
Virtual healthcare can seem like a great option for people who want cost-savings and convenience, and that may be the case. However, there are downsides, and one of those is availability. Depending on the service provider you need to see, and where you live, you may have to wait a while to get an appointment.
There are also restrictions in some states. For example, depending on the state you live in, you may not be able to participate in telehealth visits unless you already have a relationship with the provider.
So, when should you see a doctor in a virtual visit? Usually, if you think you or someone in your family has a simple problem like a cold or flu, a sinus infection, or maybe an eye infection a virtual visit can work well. However, if you think something is more complex is going on, you may need to go ahead and schedule the in-person visit.