A Visit to the “Tele” Doctor

Tele-medicine seems to be gaining a lot of momentum.  Wikipedia defines it as follows:  “Telemedicine is the use of telecommunication and information technology to provide clinical health care from a distance. It has been used to overcome distance barriers and to improve access to medical services that would often not be consistently available in distant rural communities.”  Such services are typically limited to minor conditions such as colds, flu, rashes, and allergies.

Many health insurance companies have partnered with telemedicine vendors to make their services available to members.  I find myself explaining these programs to employees in open enrollment meetings all the time, but until recently, I never had a first hand experience with it.

Last week I was on vacation at the New Jersey Shore.  I had a minor issue that I wanted to get checked out by a doctor, but I really didn’t want to go to an urgent care center and potentially waste a couple of hours of precious vacation time in a waiting room.  Our health insurance carrier is Health New England, and their remote medicine vendor is Teladoc.  I thought I’d give them a try.

I had planned to head to the Cape May Lighthouse to take some photos, so I called HNE on the way there to get Teladoc’s phone number.  I gave them a call, and the intake person scheduled the appointment and asked me a few questions about my medical history.  She also asked which pharmacy I would like to use if a prescription was necessary, explained how to download the app for the video call, and took a credit card number for the $40 copayment.

I arrived at the lighthouse about 12:30, so was able to walk around for a while before the 1:15 appointment.  I logged in to the app about 1:10 from my car, turned on the a/c, and waited for the doctor, who “arrived” at 1:13…right on time.  We had a video chat for a few minutes, and he recommended a prescription, which he sent to the pharmacy I had previously identified.

For me, the experience was very positive.  I saved a bunch of time, got the prescription I needed, and I was able to do the consultation without changing my plans.  While this type of service is not appropriate for all types of medical issues, I’d certainly use it again for something minor.

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