According to a Jan. 9 Stanford Medicine News Center release, the prominent children’s medical center was planning to double the number of “telehealth” appointments in 2019.
These new terms, “telehealth” and “telemedicine” are part of a growing trend of virtual medical visits with a board certified doctor, through a video application (app) on your phone.
McLaren Health Care Corp started its “telemedicine program” called McLarenNow this spring. It costs $49 for each virtual visit.
According to a 2018 Forbes.com article, telemedicine will be a $66 billion industry by 2021.
Today there are several smartphone apps that let you link to a doctor 24/7 and then pay a fee.
They can often prescribe medication and have it automatically sent to your pharmacy.
These services are for basic ailments for which a doctor visit or a trip to the emergency room isn’t necessary.
McLaren lists the specific 15 conditions they treat via the telemedicine visit. These include allergies, back strain, cough/cold, rash and sinus problems. The fee is a flat $49 and is applied whether or not the user has insurance.
McLarenNow is for non-McLaren patients older than 2, and can be accessed by searching for “McLarenNow” online.
McLaren Health Marketing VP Laurie Prochazka said that 300 virtual appointments were held in the first two months. “Some of the common ailments are flu and cold-related symptoms, coughs, insect bites, urinary tract infections and sinusitis,” she said. “With the warmer weather, we are beginning to get calls related to sunburn as well.”
She said 75 percent were female, and 40 percent of them were between the ages of 16 and 30. Many calls were for children.
Other apps like MDlive will have different fees based on your age or whether you have insurance.
For example, at age 37 with no insurance, a medical visit is $75, therapy counseling is $99, psychiatry is $259, and dermatology is $69.
A medical “visit” could be about $35 with insurance.
The app runs through a set of basic questions, like weight and height. They’ll want to add a pharmacy to your account for prescriptions. You’ll then be asked to add insurance, if you have it. After going through this quick process, you can request to see a doctor, or seek out a specific physician.
You can learn about them through simple social media type profiles, which list their type of medicine and when they’re available.
Once you select the doctor, you’ll go through your visit. This app offers more than just medical services.
“It’s not something I do routinely but it’s something I offer,” said local marriage and family therapist Kelsey Hoerauf, MS, LMFT. She’ll do full counseling sessions via remote, using Zoom Meetings, which have HIPPA compliant components, for privacy and security.
“I actually think it’s really cool and fantastic in that it offers access to people who wouldn’t otherwise have access,” she said. For example, perhaps someone needs to speak with a specialist, but they live significantly far away from their physical office. They could use the phone app instead.
Or, if someone becomes physically ill, they don’t have to stop treatment.
Still, she prefers live, in-person sessions. This way she can read the body language of the patient. If someone is struggling with suicidal thoughts, she’d rather see them in person.