One of the many options that self-pay patients have for affordable primary care is telemedicine. The concept behind telemedicine is fairly simple – patients sign up and provide their medical history to the company, and when they want to talk to a doctor on the phone about a condition or symptoms, they can call up and speak with a licensed doctor. Depending on the specifics, the doctor (who has the patient’s medical history in front of them) is able to make a diagnosis, provide treatment recommendations, write a prescription if needed, or refer the patient to their primary care physician.
Obviously there are limitations to this sort of medicine, but it does address an issue that many patients over the years have complained about, which is not being able to get a doctor on the phone for simple things like asking a question about treatment, getting a simple diagnosis or prescription for something that’s readily identifiable, or just getting an expired prescription re-authorized.
I recently received the stories of a couple of people who have benefited from their use of a telemedicine service, both subscribers to the Connect2Docs service*. I thought I’d share them with you so you can see the value of these types of services (they’ve been only lightly edited by me for readability).
My family and I were vacationing in Ohio over the Fourth of July. Unfortunately, my 10 year old son had contracted poison ivy 2 weeks earlier while at summer camp. We had been treating it with an over- the- counter cortisone cream but it still hadn’t cleared up. I was shocked though when he went swimming in the chlorinated pool, it turned into a rapidly spreading hive, making him uncomfortable and itchy.
Away from home, I called the Connect2Docs helpdesk, and the doctor called back within 45 minutes. While waiting for the doctor to call, I called the local Wal-mart just to make sure that our family pharmacy records would transfer.
When the doctor called, I explained my son’s condition and he recommended a prescription for prednisone, which he then called into the Wal-Mart pharmacy. I went over right away to pick up the prescription. To my great relief, within 2 days, while we were still in Ohio, my son’s outbreak was totally cleared up.
But, it gets better. When my AFLAC agent came into the office the next week and I mentioned how well the Connect2Docs service worked for my son’s condition, she suggested that I go to my online health record, where the doctor’s diagnosis was already posted for him and print out the diagnosis and prescribed treatment to submit to my AFLAC accident policy, which covers this type of accident. I submitted the document and within 2 weeks, it was approved by AFLAC for payment and I actually got a check!
I’m still amazed that my son got the proper treatment he needed so quickly, and because Connect2Docs properly documented the event on his online health portal, it was easy to submit a claim to my supplemental insurance company for payment. Thank you Connect2Docs!
Penny R., Michigan
This, from what I understand, is a fairly typical example of how people use telemedicine services. One of the things most interesting to me about P.R.’s story is that on top of using a telemedicine service for some of her family’s primary care needs, she also has supplemental insurance through AFLAC that she used to get reimbursed for the incident. A good use of multiple self-pay strategies, I’d say!
Here’s the next example I had shared with me:
My husband and I were visiting our daughter in Ashland, Kentucky. The next day he did not feel well, and being a diabetic, he decided to check his blood sugar. It was 535 which is way too high and dangerous. So he went to get his Humalog insulin which would help bring it down quickly. He soon realized he had forgotten to bring his needles.
We went to the drug store to purchase just a few needles. We were informed that they could not sell a few needles but that you would have to buy a box. We told them we will buy the box. Then they said, oh you have to a prescription to purchase them. Instantly, I thought of Connect2Docs.
So we called them and explained the situation to the doctor. He called back the drug store with a prescription for the needles and we were able to leave the store with the needles, otherwise, we would have had to gone to an urgent care center or the hospital.
Another reason I am so thankful for Connect2Docs is that our secondary insurance does not pay for our office visits. So we have saved quite a bit of money by using this service. We have been with them for over a year and my husband has used it four times and I have used it twice. Once you use this service, you won’t want to let it go.
Karen B., Ohio
It’s pretty easy to see how, without Connect2Docs or another telemedicine service, Karen’s husband would have experienced pretty serious (and expensive) health problems that would have landed him the hospital or at least at an urgent care center.
As Karen also notes, these services are fairly inexpensive, especially when compared to the cost of a visit to a doctor’s office. Connect2Docs, the service used by both of the people in these examples, offers its services for between about $15 and $25 per month. Connect2Docs is a ‘bundled’ package that also includes a medical negotiator, a prescription drug discount card, and an annual health and wellness screening.
Other companies that offer similar services include 247DocRx*, DocDial*, Ameridoc, Teledoc, and CallMD. Each of these companies have their own pricing and benefit structures, but the core is largely the same, the ability to get a doctor on the phone to deal with relatively modest primary care needs. The savings from using telemedicine can be significant, and the quick access to a doctor can help prevent minor or at least easily treatable medical issues from spiraling into something far more serious.
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