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Is Telehealth Safe? The Top 7 FAQs

Jul, 19 2017

Telehealth has made huge strides in popularity over the last few years, but do you ever wonder if it's safe? I’ve been using it for about 8 years and have heard success stories from hundreds of people who use it. Still, there are those who haven’t used it and ask me the same common questions.

If you’re not super-familiar with how it works, click here for a quick explanation of telehealth and what to expect.

I’m sharing my answers to the most frequently asked telehealth questions I hear…

1) Is it legal to get a prescription over the phone? My doctor always tells me I have to come in!

Yes! There are a variety of reasons your doctor wants you in the office. Some might not feel comfortable prescribing over the phone based on your symptoms and medical history. Some don’t have systems in place to handle payment or reimbursement from insurance companies for a phone visit. In other words, doctors only get paid by your insurance company if you come for an office visit.

2) Isn’t it just a prescription factory?

No. These are real physicians who know what appropriate care is – they follow the same strict guidelines via phone/video as they would during an office visit. About 10% of visits are referred to an in-person doctor for care. To illustrate, here's a story from a freshbenies member…

“…I called {a telehealth doctor} because I thought I had the flu. I hurt all over and had a fever, I was sure I had the flu. The doctor spoke with me and would not treat me over the phone. I was a bit agitated, as I felt horrible and did not want to dress to go to the doctor. I decided to wait it out and a few days later, I almost passed out. I was taken to the hospital and found out I had sepsis and a heart rate of 280 due to the sepsis affecting my heart. They told me I had 12 hours to live if they didn't get this under control. I just want to say thank you to that doctor for not sending me Tamiflu or something that would have masked my symptoms and I might have died. Yes, I was irritated at the time, but now I am so thankful to him that he didn't treat me…This is a story of why your doctors know what they are doing and when not to provide treatment over the phone. …I just wanted to give this comment for people who don't get treatment so they will know the doctors are trained and know when someone should go to a physical location and when it's safe to treat a patient over the phone. Again, thanks to that doctor as he probably saved my life.”

3) Are these telehealth doctors in another country?

No. In the United States, only doctors who are licensed in your state can prescribe medications. Most all telehealth companies use doctors who live and work in the U.S., and are licensed in your state.

4) Who are the doctors?

They’re typically general practitioners, pediatricians, internists, and family medicine physicians who might live and practice in your very own city. They incorporate telehealth into their practice because they see it as a way to give more affordable, more convenient access to quality care. And, many love being a "call a doctor" because it allows them to take time and talk with patients about their concerns vs. having to rush from room to room of waiting, paper gown-clad patients. It’s always a good idea to ask your specific telehealth provider about their recruiting and training policy.

Doctors Online

5) Are the doctors just “kids” straight out of med school?

No. Some telehealth companies require their doctors to have multiple years of practice experience. They also have specialized training in talking with patients and diagnosing over the phone and with online video, while adhering to strict clinical protocols.

6) How do the doctors know my history?

Using telehealth is similar to an urgent care center. When you use urgent care, you’ve probably never met the doctor before they treat you, right? So, you complete the medical history forms required before your visit (the dreaded “clip board”). Telehealth works the same way. Before a phone or video visit with a doctor, you provide your medical history electronically - including the prescriptions you’re taking and your current symptoms.

7) How can they diagnose over the phone without touching/feeling/seeing me?

We all have the same human parts and they tend to break down in the same ways over and over again. This is why it’s estimated that 70% of medical issues can be handled over the phone. They’re handling the simple, common medical issues such as colds, flu, poison ivy, respiratory infections, bronchitis, pink eye, sinus problems, allergies, urinary tract infections and ear infections. Doctors are smart, so with a few good questions many ailments are somewhat easily diagnosed via phone versus in-person. For instance, when we called for a rash on my husband’s leg, they asked: Are the bumps red or white? …raised or flat? Is the rash area warm to the touch?...and so on! Plus, if you have the capability to do a video visit, you can request that when you call to set up your telehealth visit.

 

 

 

 

 

Do you have other questions? Have you had a good or bad experience with telehealth? Feel free to comment below or email me at heidi@freshbenies.com!

Heidi

Heidi has a passion for helping busy families control their healthcare dime, time and peace of mind! She writes articles to do just that, while keeping it fun and simple for her readers! She also speaks on healthcare issues and is the owner of www.freshbenies.com.

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Tanya Boyd
Tanya Boyd
President of Tanya Boyd & Associates

I didn’t want to go to urgent care or the ER. Using Doctors Online in my freshbenies membership, I went online to ask a doctor. The doctor responded and said to check my blood pressure. He followed up with the next day to make sure my numbers were OK. By then, the feeling was starting to go away. He told me if it persists to contact my doctor. It was great that I didn’t have to go somewhere and wait forever, and it was free.” - Kelli from Texas

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leana
Leana from PA
beniebeliever

I was sick for over 3 weeks and nothing was helping. I learned my employer gave us freshbenies for free so I tried it.

I was able to set an appointment time for a doctor to call me (since I was at work).

I got the call in 10 minutes and had the cough meds and an antibiotic sent right over to my pharmacy. 

The doctor that helped me was super friendly and even had me laughing a few times. This is such a great service :)