“Our doctors will handle 10 to 12 common problems,” Skootsky says.
“If patients start describing something that can’t be handled this way, the online doctor will advise them to see a doctor in person.” Skootsky emphasizes that online health care services are not meant to replace all doctor visits.
A few moments after Kolowich signed up for American Well’s online service, she was filling out a medical history form and selecting a doctor.
She chose one at nearby Massachusetts General Hospital because of the positive reviews he had received from other American Well users.
“Many of the major payers are now the ones providing the support for the expansion of such services.” But Medicare does not cover video visits unless they’re conducted at a doctor’s office, a hospital, or a rural health clinic, which limits their convenience.
Medicaid, on the other hand, does reimburse for some telemedicine services, including virtual visits, in 46 states.
The Association of American Medical Colleges has warned that barring a dramatic change, there will be a shortage of more than 130,600 doctors by 2025. Patients sign up and pick an available doctor, who diagnoses their problem and prescribes treatment, if necessary.
But not all states allow virtual doctors to write prescriptions. Kolowich, for example, paid for each of her two visits with an online nutritionist.“Clearly, we still have a ways to go,” Linkous says.Right now, most users include professionals working for companies that pay for the service, he says.Most telehealth companies do not provide pediatric appointments; Teladoc is one exception.Besides convenience, other reasons may explain the rise in e-visit demand. Teladoc reports on its web site that without remote doctor visits or teleconferencing, patients say they would have gone to an emergency room, urgent care clinic, or seen a primary care doctor or specialist -- all pricier options.“It was great, and easier than I thought it would be.” She maintained regular appointments with her surgeon, but the ability to see a doctor when it was most convenient to her helped ease her concerns over her pain.