Waiting in a doctor’s office isn’t the most pleasant way to spend your time. Surrounded by sick kids and hacking coughs, you may even wonder if you’ll leave with something worse than you came in with. That’s one reason telemedicine is booming. Other reasons include keeping waiting room times down, serving patients in rural areas or keeping a close eye on newborns. And it makes sense. If you can attend a meeting virtually or talk to a friend across the country, why shouldn’t you be able to visit your doctor with the same ease?
Professionals agree that telemedicine can help reshape our overburdened healthcare industry, even if 41 percent of people have no idea what telemedicine can offer. But a lack of public recognition for telehealth isn’t stopping healthcare providers from realizing that it can help cut costs, shorten wait times, bring healthcare to people in rural areas and help keep at-risk patients healthy by providing quick check ins. Insurance companies are catching on, with major companies making telemedicine more affordable by extending coverage to this new wave of healthcare.
Add to this the fact that the transition to telehealth services should be painless when you consider that most Americans have access to at least one camera-enabled device, be it a laptop, smartphone or a tablet. With the technology already in Americans’ hands, all companies need to do is provide the service. Here are five companies that are shaking up healthcare with unique telemedicine services.
Teladoc started its business in 2002, when telemedicine (or telehealth as it’s also called) was barely on the scene. Today it boasts a service that provides patients with an extensive network of board-certified physicians who are available and on-call 24 hours a day, seven days a week and 365 days a year. A consultation costs just $40 and, unlike a traditional doctor’s office, there isn’t a time limit on a Teladoc consultation.
The service claims 95 percent satisfaction from members, with a 10-minute average consultation and fewer than 10 minutes for a call back from a doctor. Teladoc positions itself as a service designed for patients with a non-emergency medical issue, who need a short-term prescription like antibiotics, who travel a lot and who think they may need a specialist.
Dedicated to providing quality care in an ever-changing healthcare system, SnapMD offers a cloud-based telemedicine service with HIPAA-compliant encrypted video, audio and messaging. Patients can include their medical history in their account, which makes it easy for a doctor to pull up their charts during a call.
The wide breadth of features that come along with SnapMD make it easy for doctors to write prescriptions, file insurance claims, verify health plan coverage, determine co-pays, read data from peripheral diagnostic devices, view medication history and much more. Since it’s cloud-based, doctors and hospitals don’t have to worry about managing a server room dedicated to telemedicine or hire a team to provide server up-keep.
Telemedicine isn’t focused only on aches and pains or the common cold, it’s also targeting mental health. BreakThrough offers online therapy in an attempt to make it easier for patients to get access to mental health providers. It can be difficult to fit in a therapy appointment among a busy schedule, so bringing the experience online helps patients get access to therapy when it works for them. Patients can meet with a therapist at virtually anytime, including nights and weekends, when most traditional therapists aren’t available for an in-person appointment.
If you’re weary about virtual therapy, BreakThrough offers some impressive stats: 86 percent of patients come back after their first session and studies have shown online counseling is just as beneficial as in-person sessions. BreakThrough opens up a world of therapists, rather than limiting you to local providers and there is a good chance that your insurance will cover it.
This telehealth service has a different spin. It focuses on helping people — specifically employees — create new healthy habits. LifeDojo is targeted at employers who want to keep their employees happy and healthy by offering specific services to boost overall health. By offering four different 12-week programs, each focused on a different aspect of health, LifeDojo boasts the capability to help people create healthy and long lasting habits. You can choose from Fit for Life: Exercise; Healthy Eating: Beyond Diet Hype; Happiness Science and Mastering Stress. These are four common areas that office workers might struggle with, given the 40 plus hour weeks they often spend stuck behind a desk.
LifeDojo guides employees through the process step-by-step, offering encouragement, motivation and support along the way. Each program starts with two weeks of motivation through the use of videos and science-backed evidence. Next, employees get a custom plan where they can choose the type of activities they’d like to do the most. Once a plan is established, employees get access to a live health coach, who is available for support and to hold themselves accountable. LifeDojo will also work with companies to help them make small changes to their office structure to help support employees trying to make a change.
The last thing you want to do when you’re sick is leave your bed, and the people around you in the waiting room at the doctor’s office probably wish you’d stayed in bed, too. Or maybe you are without a car or you have a kid who needs a physical for school or a sleep-away camp, but you can’t get an appointment at a convenient time.
With Pager, you can stay home and book a doctor’s appointment for any day between 8 a.m. and 10 p.m. Unlike the other services on this list, you will actually get a doctor to show up at your house, apartment or hotel. Log onto the website, and a support member immediately asks you if they can help you book a visit. Your first visit is complimentary using the promo code HEALTHCHECK, and it gets you an overall assessment of your health and risk for common medical conditions from the comfort of your own home. There is one catch: Pager is currently available only in New York City, but it’s been making headlines for its funding and plans to expand in the near future.