What is telemedicine?
Telemedicine or telehealth is an increasingly popular way of getting health care because it allows people to get care without traveling to a doctor’s office or hospital. Telemedicine is a way of receiving medical care without actually traveling to a doctor’s office or hospital, usually by phone call, video chat, or text message. You can see a doctor virtually for a wide range of medical situations, ranging from mental healthcare to dermatology.
Does my health insurance cover telemedicine?
Not all health care can be performed via telemedicine, and those that can may not be covered by your insurance. You will need to read your health plan documents or call your insurance company to find out:
- What kind of telehealth or telemedicine is covered
- What the restrictions are
- What your costs will be compared to traditional in-person visits
- What access they offer to a telehealth or telemedicine service
- Ask your doctor or healthcare provider if they offer telemedicine
Depending on your health plan, telemedicine visits may be cheaper than in-person appointments.
When should I use telemedicine?
Telemedicine is a new and convenient way to receive medical care; however, it does not completely replace in-person doctor’s visits. Telemedicine appointments are best for:
- When you can’t visit your usual doctor
- Prescription refills/renewals
- Simple problems that should be easy to diagnose and treat, like a cold, rash, allergy
- When you can’t afford to take time off work for a doctor’s appointment
Keep in mind telemedicine isn’t always the best option. Some things, such as broken bones and blood tests, will require an in-person doctor visit. In-person doctor visits may also be a better option for certain illnesses or injuries, and you may want to discuss certain matters with your doctor in person rather than over the phone or computer.
Some health plans offer 24/7 nurse lines to help you decide if you need to seek in-person emergency care or if it’s okay to get advice over the phone. Check to see if your health plan has this service.