Telemedicine

A revolution is brewing in the way we consult health professionals. It promises to slash the price we pay for many aspects of basic health advice. And it will transform the speed and security of getting medical help. 

It's called telemedicine or telehealth -- consulting board certified doctors online or via the phone for a fraction of what you might pay for a traditional consultation.

Telemedicine has been around for many years, but two things are firing this revolution right now:

  • First, the Coronavirus (or Covid19) outbreak that makes a visit to the doctor's office something we want to avoid. It's also a low-cost way of accessing a physician for those who have no or insufficient health insurance, perhaps because of job loss.
  • And second, the growth of nationwide online medical consultation services. They've rocketed in recent years, drawing in thousands of qualified medics across the country and making them available everywhere, even in remote communities.
    About 44 million people in the US have no health insurance, and another 38 million have inadequate coverage.
    However, experts in the industry say that in total 147 million Americans fall within the catchment that could benefit from telemedicine services. These might include, for example, people with mobility problems.

A Telemedicine Network in Action

Standalone telemedicine programs (that is, those that are not part of a health insurance policy) is not insurance.

Nor is it intended to fully replace the service of a primary care physician. And you should still call 911 for a medical emergency.

However, it is a fast and low cost way of getting help and advice for many medical conditions (see below for example).

Subscribers to a network pay a fixed monthly fee and that's it. No co-pays, no office visit fees, no deductibles, no applications.

Doctors are online 24/7 -- no problem with night-time, holiday or weekend consults. You can even select an individual (if available) or group of doctors, including a preferred gender or language. Then you can see or speak to a doctor in the comfort of your own home.

The fee can be as low as $45 for an entire family, of $15 per person for group programs.

You can run your subscription alongside a traditional health insurance policy if you wish -- adding convenience and potential co-pay/deductible savings to your existing coverage.

Or you can run it as a standalone program, getting key medical advice and support that, for example, includes consultations for:

  • Allergies
  • Colds
  • Cough
  • Flu
  • Sore throat
  • Minor injuries such as sprains and strains
  • Pink eye
  • Sinus infections
  • Skin infections
  • Urinary tract infections (UTIs)
  • Respiratory problems
  • Vomiting
  • Insect bites
  • Ear problems
  • Blood pressure
  • Menstrual issues

Many more health conditions can be diagnosed and dealt with -- including the issuing of discounted prescriptions -- via telemedicine.

You can also consult a therapist and/or a prescribing psychiatrist -- for issues such as depression, addictions, bipolar and stress -- or dermatologists, covering thousands of skin disorders.

Furthermore, you can order blood work via your network. You have to pay for these but expect to save up to 80% of lab retail costs. Tests start from as little as $4.95 and you can choose from one of 2,500 testing centers nationwide.

Your network may also run promotions from time to time outside its standing service. For example, these might include low-cost hormone or cholesterol checks.

How Telemedicine Consultations Work

Not many years ago, few of us used computers and smart phones for video conversations. Now everyone is doing it. And the severity of stay-at-home lockdowns has turned many of us into accomplished video users.

But even first-timers will find telemedicine consultations easy, especially if you have a built in camera on your device. All smartphones and most laptops have cameras. Even if your PC doesn’t have one, separate plug-in web-cameras are cheap to buy and easy to set up.

And, just in case you don’t want to use video or don't have immediate access, you can speak to a network doctor on the phone.

Then you simply apply to join the network. In some cases, this can be done via an expert agency, such as The Bunker. We can simplify the whole process for you, as well as answer any questions or concerns you might have.

Enrollment is simple -- no long or tedious forms to complete and no private information like your Social Security Number to give. You just create an account and complete a brief online application.

Then, when you need to consult a doctor, you simply sign on to your account (or call a provided phone number), via your browser, a dedicated video service, or a smart phone app. You'll have received instructions on the route to follow.

Then, select a doctor (which can be as simple as requesting the next available one), briefly enter or speak the reason for your visit, and upload a photo if needed -- for example for a skin condition.

You verify your pharmacy, in case a prescription is needed, Then you'll be connected to a doctor who will ask you to explain your issue, ask further questions and, if appropriate, make a diagnosis and perhaps issue a prescription.

If the condition or issue is beyond the realm of an online consultation, you'll likely be referred elsewhere for other professional medical help, which, of course, will fall outside the program and will therefore require payment or health insurance support.

The whole process is relatively simple and straightforward. Your conversations should be private and secure.


What Next?

Using a network such as we've described isn’t the only route to telemedicine. For example, your own primary care physician, therapist of specialist might offer online consultations -- especially during the Coronavirus crisis. So, you should definitely check with them and your insurer if you have one, to see if these services are available.

Some states also require health insurers to include coverage for telemedicine in their policies. Florida does not but the state strongly encourages insurers to do this.

But if you're one of the 82 million Americans who don't have coverage or whose coverage is inadequate, or others seeking an easier or more convenient route, it's a promising, low-cost way forward.

If you fit into this category, please contact us at The Bunker, and we'll show you the way to the telehealth revolution.

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