Telemedicine Apps: Do not go to a doctor’s office if you don’t have to! Get your help online. This article states the options you have.
Let’s face it; sometimes it’s easier not to go to the doctor than to go. Appointment times aren’t always convenient, and your to-do list contains items that just keep creeping above the annual physical you’ve been putting off. Or you might get an appointment, but you’re feeling too sick to get out of bed. Do doctors no longer make house calls?
Telehealth which uses talk, video, and text features to connect doctors with patients, enabling them to diagnose, treat, and even prescribe medication — is the modern answer to the house call and an increasing part of the healthcare industry. It reduces the burden on in-person facilities by triaging or treating less serious cases while also expanding access to patients in rural areas where there may be a shortage of medical practitioners.
The doctor you need to see for your chronic migraine attacks or diabetes, or to speak to you for the first time through breastfeeding, maybe in the next city, county, or — even — state for the millions not living in a major metropolitan area. “It allows for the same quality of care a patient would receive to see [their] provider face-to-face but instead perform in real-time video-audio communication,” says Pamela Hoffman, MD, Yale Medicine’s Medical Director for Telehealth Services, and the Connecticut Yale-New Haven Health System.
As we are navigating the global spread of COVID-19, the importance of using telehealth services is stressed by doctors and public health officials rather than coming to a medical post. Telehealth is ideal for people with minor medical concerns and those who have COVID-19 symptoms but don’t need emergency care.
“It allows for the same quality of care a patient would receive to see [their] provider face-to-face but instead perform in real-time video-audio communication,” says Pamela Hoffman, MD, Yale Medicine’s Medical Director for Telehealth Services, and the Connecticut Yale-New Haven Health System.
As we are navigating the global spread of COVID-19, the importance of using telehealth services is stressed by doctors and public health officials rather than coming to a medical post. Telehealth is ideal for people with minor medical concerns and those who have COVID-19 symptoms but don’t need emergency care. Using some form of virtual care enables those not infected with the virus to stay physically distant from those infected. And it can guide those with mild to moderate symptoms to take appropriate care of themselves so that they don’t overwhelm emergency facilities.
“A patient who is concerned about a minor medical concern that would normally enter the hospital clinic can be treated via video so that patients with COVID-19 symptoms can have clearer access to hospital services,” Dr. Hoffman says.
This pandemic will go through — how fast it remains to be seen — but it’s likely that telehealth will only become more popular. “Modern telemedicine is a way in which providers and patients can connect quickly and safely,” Hoffman said.
So to get you through all the sinus infections, UTIs, anxiety and yes, even a pandemic quickly and safely, we’ve rounded up the best available telehealth apps and websites. Keep in mind that prices may be lower if Telehealth visits are covered by your health insurance.
1. Teladoc – Telemedicine Apps
Teladoc is one of the leading telehealth services, with an app and online portal providing patients with access to what they call “everyday care,” covering the standard health issues that you would typically tackle as a matter of urgency: sinus and respiratory infections, flu symptoms, allergies, and rashes. Their doctors may send prescriptions to your preferred pharmacy when required.
While daily care covers mostly acute conditions, Teladoc also provides dermatology and mental health care for ongoing treatment. The component Mental Health provides users with the option to select and see the same therapist or psychiatrist on each visit.
Cost: No membership fee
- Everyday care — starts at $55
- Dermatology — starts at $85
- Mental health — starts at $90
Verdict Teladoc ‘s expansive partnerships with employers and insurers make it a seamless and affordable option.
2. Doctor On Demand
Doctor On Demand is clear about what they’re doing and not treating, which is important information when you decide whether a service is right for your needs. It may seem obvious, but their site makes it clear that an in-person doctor or hospital must deal with the following issues: broken bones, severe burns, lacerations, loss of consciousness, chest pains, blood coughing or vomiting, and all traumatic injuries.
Doctor On Demand covers emergency care needs including coughs, colds, migraines, yeast infections, IBS, erectile dysfunction, and allergy. Users are assigned a doctor for immediate appointments, but scheduled appointments allow patients to choose which provider they wish to speak with.
The app also pays much-needed attention to chronic and preventive care, including behavioral health. Specifically, the preventive services stand out and include smoking cessation, lifestyle counseling, and nutrition, as well as pediatric and family services that help with immunization planning, growth milestones, and counseling for child development.
Cost: No membership fee
- Medical doctor — $75 for a 15-minute consultation
- Psychology — $129 for a 25-minute consultation; $179 for a 50-minute consultation
- Psychiatry — $299 for initial 45-minute consultation; $129 for 15-minute follow-up
Verdict If you have questions about how to maintain the health of your family and yourself, the services provided by Doctor On Demand make it easy to get answers without long waiting lists or transferring to specialists.
MDLIVE ‘s focus is on urgent care, behavioral health, and dermatology and they emphasize health literacy throughout their services. For example, an antibiotic cannot remedy many of the urgent medical issues covered by MDLIVE, such as common cold, flu, sore throat, cough, and fever, because these conditions are typically caused by viruses and not bacteria (though there are exceptions). MDLIVE explains what an antibiotic can and cannot treat, and its professionals spend the time they need to develop a plan to lessen the symptoms of viral diseases while the virus is running its course.
They also provide counseling and management of medication for most behavioral health concerns, including support for traumas. MDLIVE dermatologists treat everything from bites of insects, acne, and dark spots to loss of hair and cold sores. MDLIVE offers full refunds to users if they cancel their appointment at least 24 hours before the time.
Cost: No membership fee; participating insurance accepted
- Urgent care — $75 or less
- Counseling — $99 or less
- Psychiatry — $259 for initial consults; $99 for follow-up visits
- Dermatology — $69
Verdict MDLIVE has a passion for educating its patients.
4. LiveHealth Online
LiveHealth Online covers the standard set of urgent health and behavioral issues and allergy conditions. Once patients have logged in (using insurance or not) they can select the doctor they want to see, and the time — appointments are available around the clock, so LiveHealth has providers available for the person who wakes up with a high fever in the middle of the night. The company also partners Spanish speaking patients with providers in Mexico City. Unlike other apps, the basic prices for the insured and the uninsured are the same; however, depending on coverage, costs may drop and are based on personal copayments.
Cost: No membership fee
- Medical visits — $59 or less
- Counseling — $80 or less with a therapist; $95 or less with a psychologist
- Psychiatry — $175 or less for initial evaluation; $75 or less for follow-ups
Verdict LiveHealth Online offers the usual range of telehealth services, with the addition of appointments in Spanish.
Some telehealth services automatically assign patients to the first physician available. But Amwell allows its users to choose among the available physicians, who are listed along with their experience and ratings. In addition to emergency care appointments, Amwell offers a variety of specialty services such as menopause care, nutrition, and counseling; nutrition and counseling for pregnancy and postpartum; support for breastfeeding; physical therapy; psychiatry; cardiology; and neurology. Amwell ‘s specialty services are designed primarily to support patients who have previously received or are currently receiving care in person. Cardiology and neurology services, for example, are best suited for people who manage a chronic condition. The women’s health services complement those received in person by obstetricians and gynecologists, who may not have enough time per patient to discuss nutrition, breastfeeding, and menopause adjustment.
Cost: No membership fee
- Urgent care — starts at $69
- Counseling — starts at $79
- Psychiatry — starts at $199
- Nutrition — starts at $65
- Dermatology — starts at $49
- Cardiology and neurology — starts at $99
- Physical therapy — starts at $69
Verdict Amwell excels in filling care gaps — where patients may otherwise fall off after initial diagnosis or surgery, Amwell facilitates additional, specialized health services and provides this information through the primary care physician of a patient.
6. K Health Primary Care
K Health distinguishes itself from other telehealth services by using AI (artificial intelligence) technology to provide patients with prompt answers to their health concerns and to determine whether they need to talk to a doctor before they pay for a visit. This reduces waiting times and unnecessary medical visits, and K Health keeps costs low by relying on text, rather than video or phone visits. The visit fee includes a follow-up text with the doctor for up to two weeks.
For primary and urgent care needs, chat services are available via K Health, and prescriptions and laboratory tests are ordered as needed. The app also offers behavioral health treatment, starting with a free evaluation supervised by board-certified physicians who can prescribe medication and who will check in with patients every two weeks to assess their progress and adjust their medication when needed.
- Primary care — $49 per year for unlimited visits or $19 per visit
- Behavioral health — $29 per month, including medication
Verdict K Health is intended for individuals who are comfortable being trialed by AI and those with a stable diagnosis of depression or anxiety for their behavioral health services.
7. Cigna Telehealth Connection
The insurance company’s telehealth service, which is available to Cigna customers, streamlines treatment, and patient billing. The service offers patients two options: a phone call with a nurse to determine the right care plan, at no additional cost, or telephone or video calls with board-certified physicians to diagnose and treat conditions that are minor or urgent but not life-threatening.
The service is available from any location at any time, and since it is only available to those insured by Cigna, the out-of-pocket costs match in-person copay, or are lower, depending on the case. Its services are limited to common conditions such as colds and flu, allergies, headaches, stomachs, UTIs, and skin conditions.
Cost: Fees are based on individual and group Cigna health plans.
Verdict If you are worried about costs, telehealth service or if the onboarding process proves too complicated
the fastest and easiest option is to use the telehealth service provided by your insurance provider. As part of customer coverage, many insurance providers are building their own telehealth services.
Talkspace was one of the first apps offering affordable talk therapy for mental health. The process starts with a free evaluation, after which the patients can select their plan. Unlimited messaging therapy, couple therapy, and teen therapy are options. Employer plans are available as a supplement to traditional health benefits and are already being used.
Depending on the plan, live sessions could be limited to four times a month. The app relies instead on texting, and providers typically respond one to two times a day. Recently, Talkspace introduced social media dependency therapy, acknowledging the proven link between depression and social media, particularly in teens. There is no prescribed appointment time with Talkspace, but rather a free-flowing conversation as issues that patients wish to address come up throughout the week.
- Unlimited messaging therapy (including teens) — starts at $65 per week
- Live talk therapy unlimited — $99 per week
- Couples therapy — starts at $89 per week
Verdict Whether you’re looking for an affordable way to dip your toe into therapy or have trouble remembering all the things you’d like to talk about during a single weekly appointment, Talkspace is a great option to set up a fluid therapeutic chat.