How to Make a Telemedicine Appointment and Other FAQs

Here’s how you can get the benefit of your local doctor’s office or hospital from home.

An example of a patient at home using telemedicine by talking to a doctor through a digital tablet. | Photo by Getty / AJ_Watt

Even if you’re feeling sick, right now is not the best time to physically be in a doctor’s office or hospital if you don’t have to be. Luckily, there have been huge advancements in telemedicine over the years, which are coming in handy now. Telemedicine, for those not familiar, is the use of digital and phone communication to help treat patients, diagnose illnesses, prescribe medications, and answer health questions — all from the safety of your home.

“Many people have figured out ways to do telephone visits to cover many of the things that you might have talked about during the visit, even though they know in the future they might have to bring you back in the office, says Dr. Margot Savoy, Chair of Family and Community Medicine at Temple University, “We can try something over the phone and then have you come in later when things have calmed down.”

Though the practice was already gaining steam before we entered into a global pandemic, now it’s on the rise more than ever. And, it happens to be the recommended practice by physicians and hospitals all over the country right now. Still unsure about telemedicine in general? Here’s a quick rundown of some FAQs.

Which local hospitals and health institutions are employing telemedicine services?
You should contact your healthcare provider to ask about their offerings. For example, Penn Medicine, Main Line Health, the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, Thomas Jefferson University Hospital, Rothman Orthopaedics, and Temple University Hospital all employ telemedicine techniques. Many other hospitals and smaller health practices do as well, and others that didn’t before are adapting to do so now. You should call your doctor or local hospital to see if they have a telemedicine practice, or are employing one now. 

How can I make an appointment?
Virtual appointments are made either after a phone call or logging into the web-based service on your computer or Smartphone and answering a series of questions. From there, you should be redirected to a nurse or doctor.

What can the medical professional I talk to via telemedicine do?
The nurse or doctor you meet with via telemedicine can prescribe medications for pickup at the pharmacy, suggest home care strategies, and recommend further medical attention if needed, depending on your situation.

Are there other places I can make a digital appointment besides my local health facilities? 
In addition to local hospitals and doctor’s offices, you can look into digital medical companies like MDLive, Live Health Online, 98point6, Amwell, and more, which can make you a virtual appointment with a medical professional. You’ll typically just need a computer or Smartphone and a payment method, though some can operate over the phone as well. 

How much does telemedicine cost?
That’s going to depend on the provider and your insurance. Some insurance providers recognize telemedicine providers, and may cover the costs. If your insurance won’t cover telemedicine expenses, then you’d have to pay through a copay or out-of-pocket. If you don’t have insurance you would pay out of pocket. Patients under Medicare can typically expect their telemedicine services to be covered. Paying out-of-pocket varies, with some telemedicine visits at between $50 to $80 per visit, and others, like 98point6, offering rates like $20 for the first year of membership and $1 per visit.

Can telemedicine providers treat COVID-19?
Healthcare providers can help coordinate coronavirus testing and administer self-care and quarantine tips. They can’t test individuals for coronavirus but they can help identify severity of symptoms (such as how short of breath a person is), as well as identify who may need testing or in-person treatment, and who is better off staying home. 

If you’re still not sure if you should make a telehealth appointment, or have more questions, check out our handy guide: Which Doctor’s Appointments Should You Be Keeping Right Now? 

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