While I have been talking about...well actually raving about telemedicine over the past year, I have also been wanting to blog about it. And I am not sure if I just had a mental “block” on actually writing it, or if deep down inside I wanted to wait until I tried it out myself, in fear of it not meeting the expectations.
I can now say I have used it and it of course it made me want to write about it. Here’s my experience.
A couple of weeks ago, I traveled to my Austin, TX office. Before I left, I had felt a weird sort of “eye ache”. More like the type of “ache” you get when you get pink eye, but I was not experiencing the sticky eyelashes or the “gunk” that gets in your eye. But because pink eye is severely contagious, I didn’t want to take the chance of getting on another plane in fear of accidentally or unintentionally touching my eye and then someone else. Because I used the service in Texas, their laws state that the “face-to-face” visits are not available, so I had to talk to the doctor over the phone. It was so easy. I explained that I wasn’t having pink eye symptoms, but experienced the achiness. We immediately ruled out allergies because I wasn’t experiencing any allergy symptoms. Within 20 minutes I was at the local pharmacy in Austin and picking up a prescription for antibiotic drops. I just really couldn’t be more pleased with how smooth the process was, and therefore was more excited about writing this blog. It was fast and easy.
We purchased MDLive as a stand-alone product to run alongside our major medical plans we offer at Playa Vista Insurance Services. And although many carriers offer telemedicine with their medical plans, oftentimes those plans include a copay for accessing care or the telemedicine program only cover those who are covered on the actual medical plan. When I learned about MDLive, it was not only affordable for the members, but it covers up to 5 people in a household and the plan we offer our clients and have ourselves has a $0 copay.
Although we have had it since March, I didn’t use it until April, and when I did, the registration was easy and I got to select a doctor by the following criteria:
• Their availability (next available and within 15 minutes)
• Their schooling (medical school)
• How they look
• Where they are from / nationality / languages spoken
Someone may want to select a doctor based on where they went to medical school and some may want to pick a doctor based on their origin or nationality due to language barriers. Let’s face it, someone may want to pick a doctor because he/she is cute. Either way, all doctors are American Board Certified and are usually available within 15 minutes.
So, what are the main perks of telemedicine, why is there such a need? There are a lot of reasons, here are just a few:
Access to care – While we don’t ever recommend NOT having traditional major medical insurance, the truth is, there are still millions of Americans that don’t have any healthcare benefits. And while this is not catastrophic coverage or a solution for not having medical insurance, it is still access to care.
Avoiding high deductibles – The first example I was given was about strep throat. Normally one would go to the urgent care or the ER. If you have a PPO plan, you know that the “swab” checking for strep throat will go toward your deductible. Although the results are never in on whether you have strep through before you leave, the doctor, 99.9% of the time will send you off with a prescription for an antibiotic. In this case, you would either explain or even have that child open his/her mouth in front of the computer, and guess what? A prescription gets called in for the antibiotic and then the swab is not necessary. Doctors send you home with a prescription without the results anyway, so how is this different?
Convenience – Whether you are on vacation or at work, or you just feel awful, the last thing you want to do is drag yourself to an urgent care or ER. How nice would it be to just contact a doctor on your smartphone or your computer? The only trip after that is to the pharmacy and pick up a prescription and then to bed. Or, you’re a single mom with a few children and one is sick, you have to get them all up and dressed to take them to the Urgent Care, never fun.
Location, location, location – It might not matter where you are or how far you are from the hospital. Lots of people in rural areas can now have the same access to top-notch doctors as those in metropolitan cities. In fact, one of the newest and biggest value add propositions to telemedicine is mental health benefits. The link actually covers both topics, being in a rural area and having access to mental health services.
Injury vs. Illness – Road rash. It hurts and you might require an antibiotic ointment. How fun is it going into the urgent care or ER with a non-life threatening injury, knowing you’re going to have to wait for everyone worse than you to go ahead of you? It brings up the odds of you going in with road rash and coming out with the flu, bronchitis or whatever else everyone has while they are sitting and waiting to see the doctor.
Eligible Dependent Status – So far, I have not found anything that states that the 5 total covered are required to be eligible dependents under any tax status. That means with traditional medical insurance, the only people you can cover are qualified dependents (i.e. spouses or children). With multi-generational households, you could put your parents on the plan or maybe even a grandparent. You would need to refer to the program you are looking at, but as far as I have found, it doesn’t need to be an eligible tax dependent.
I see a need for telemedicine now more than ever. The cost for this coverage can range from under $10 per employee per month for a $0 copay that covers 5 people in the house OR $19.95 a month for an individual to have the same access on their own seems like a no-brainer. Whether it’s a stand-alone plan or to compliment a full fledged major medical plan or a limited medical plan, you just cannot go wrong with these types of programs.
For more information, please feel free to contact Playa Vista Insurance Services about how you can enroll in a telemedicine program that’s affordable and user friendly. We can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or you can call us at (800) 834-2310