Have you ever been stuck in the house for multiple days because of the weather? I have! If you haven’t heard, Texas is currently in the middle of what Facebookers have dubbed “IceMaggedon 2013,” “Ice-pocalypse,” “Ice-apalooza” and even “Sleetnado!” (although, we’re now on day 3 of being held hostage in our homes and it’s finally gotten above freezing, so “Slushmageddon”)!
In the middle of all this, I started thinking about people who might be stuck at home and really sick - what are their options? Sometimes it’s weather that holds us hostage in our own homes, but most of the time, it’s our symptoms - you literally CAN’T get out of bed (or away from the bathroom, if you know what I mean).
And then there’s the inconvenience factor: making ourselves presentable (I have many friends who wouldn’t dream of leaving the house without mascara no matter how sick), commuting to the location, sitting in a waiting room and THEN getting your 8 minutes with the doctor (that’s not a made-up number – it’s the average doctor office visit time in the US) to diagnose something you probably already knew. And, unfortunately, sickness doesn’t always strike during business hours!
Enter telemedicine! That’s just a fancy word for being able to contact a U.S. based doctor 24/7/365 for a consult and get a prescription written, if needed. To answer the questions that are already popping into your head: no, it’s not illegal; yes, they’re reputable providers; and your doctor makes you come in because they don’t have a way to charge for their time on a phone call. I think most people agree that the US healthcare market is in serious need of innovation. If Amazon and UPS can deliver packages using military drones, why can’t I have a doctor visit over the phone?
The American Medical Association agrees, too. They say about 70% of doctor, emergency room and urgent care center visits could be handled over the phone. This makes a lot of sense considering we all have the same "parts" that break down the same way over and over again! To be clear, telemedicine does NOT replace your family doctor. If you have a chronic condition, this isn’t the place to get your prescription refilled – you need to be under a doctor’s continuous care.
I recently heard from Jeanna, a mom in Florida, about her telemedicine experience. Her son was complaining about a toothache one morning. She explains, “He has braces with springs, brackets, nuts and bolts, so I kissed him goodbye and sent him on his merry way.” Later in the evening, he was still complaining that he couldn't eat and it hurt to swallow so she looked in his mouth. “HOLY CRAP! His gums were huge, red and inflamed. He obviously had a nasty infection brewing, and at this rate, we couldn't wait to see the orthodontist in the morning.” She called her freshbenies telemedicine service, waited less than 10 minutes to talk to the doctor and got a prescription for an antibiotic, which got her through the night until they could see the orthodontist. She speaks highly of the service, “As an ICU nurse, I can say that this is the coolest thing I have ever done. We would have waited AT LEAST an hour to see a provider and paid the co-pay. My prescription was waiting at my pharmacy since the doctor called it in. Time is money, people, and infections can get nasty fast. I'M SOLD!! LOVE IT!!”
Here are the basic steps of how a telemedicine service works in real life…
1) You sign up for the service.
When comparing telemedicine companies, be aware that some charge a monthly fee to be a member and then as high as $40 for each call. Some just charge the monthly membership without a per-call fee.
2) You provide your medical history.
Just like at your doctor’s office or an urgent care clinic, the doctor needs to know if you still have your appendix, any drug allergies, meds you’re taking, etc. before they feel comfortable advising and providing care.
3) You get sick.
UGH! At this point, it’s just a waiting game to see when you need to use the service.
4) You call and request a consult through the telemedicine service.
Normally, an intake representative will ask for updates on your health background, your symptoms, and the state you’re calling from (only doctors in the state you’re in can prescribe medications – great if you’re at home and if you’re traveling). Some telemedicine companies have different types of doctors on call (internists, pediatricians, family doctors, etc.) - this helps get you with the right doctor.
5) You consult with a doctor.
Again, when comparing telemedicine providers, there are many consultation methods (phone, video, email, etc.). Some have different options depending on whether you need a prescription or just advice. I suggest finding a company with a simple process and a fast response time to consult with a U.S. based physician who can prescribe immediately.
6) Final steps.
There are different options at this point depending on the doctor’s advice.
**You’re given a prescription: it’s called in to your local pharmacy (providing this info is is part of the medical history process).
**You’re given advice: sometimes a little advice or an over-the-counter option will do the trick!
**You’re referred to another provider: if the doctor doesn’t feel like you’re a candidate for a phone visit, they’ll advise you to go to an ER, urgent care clinic, or just tell you to see your regular doctor during office hours.
Click here to read more stories from people who’ve used this type of service.
The ice is already melting and I’m healthy today (yay!). However, I’m super happy I don’t have to go through the hassle of appointment scheduling, mascara, commuting, a waiting room, etc. for the next simple medical issue that can be solved with telemedicine!
Now, let’s hear your story! Have you tried telemedicine? What was your experience? Do you have other questions about how telemedicine works? Call me at 1-888-813-5468!
About the author: Heidi has a passion for helping busy families save time, money and frustration. She writes articles to do just that, while keeping it fun and simple for her readers! She also speaks on healthcare issues and is the owner of www.freshbenies.com.
About freshbenies: freshbenies (www.freshbenies.com) helps employers and employees take the headache out of healthcare with telehealth, doctors online, advocacy, Rx savings (and more)…all in one easy-to-use card.