I’ve written in the past about telemedicine companies like DocDial,* Connect2Docs,* and AmericanWell, which allow patients to connect with a doctor by calling, e-mailing, or connecting via a video hookup. These companies and others can be great options for self-pay patients, or anybody else for that matter. They offer convenient and quick access to primary care doctors at relatively low, affordable rates.
While each company has unique features, components, and aspects (Connect2Docs, for example, is what I call a ‘bundled’ package meaning it also offers other health care services, including a drug discount card and medical bill negotiation), they all operate roughly the same way. People sign up in advance, provide their medical history and other information, and in the event they need a primary care physician’s services, they can call and get a licensed doctor on the phone who can answer questions, provide medical advice, recommend treatment, write prescriptions, and refer patients for an in-person visit to the doctor.
Obviously there are limitations to this type of medicine. But for many medical needs, getting a doctor on the phone or video hookup can be a quick, easy, and affordable way to get quality care (I’ve seen estimates that anywhere from a third to two thirds of all primary care office visits could be resolved over the phone). And for self-pay patients, quick, easy, affordable, and quality pretty much define what they’re looking for.
So I was happy to see that another telemedicine company launched within the last week, adding another option for self-pay patients to consider. Doctor on Demand offers face-to-face consultations with doctors through a smart phone, tablet, or computer. As with other telemedicine patients need to sign up in advance.
The costs are pretty good – a 15 minute online visit only costs $40, and there are no monthly or annual membership charges. Their web site says there is ‘no wait’ and that you can ‘See a doctor in minutes,’ which is a little vague but does suggest immediate access, whereas many telemedicine services have patients call in to request a consult and get call back later, usually within an hour or so.
For $40, you get a physician who can address the following symptoms, conditions, and injuries:
- Upper Respiratory Infection
- Nasal Congestion
- Lab Interpretation
- Athlete’s Foot
- Sports Injuries
- Rolled Ankle
- Travel Medicine
- Bladder infections
- Cellulitis – Skin Infection
- Eye Irritation
- Asthma – (stable/non-emergent)
- Yeast Infection
- Back Pain
- Skin Infection
- Seborrheic Dermatitis – Dry Scalp
- Vaginal Itching
- Heartburn – Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)
- Dry Skin – Eczema
- Bee Sting
- Pink Eye
- Genital Lesions
- Dry Scalp
- Hay Fever
- Poison Oak / Poison Ivy
They also helpfully include a list of things that they can’t address over the phone:
Doctors on Demand is NOT appropriate for: Any medical problem that is life-threatening or that may cause impairment. Some examples of medical issues that require immediate attention in an emergency room include:
- Chest pain or pressure
- Significant, uncontrolled bleeding
- Difficulty in breathing
- Moderate to severe burns
- Convulsions or seizures
- Serious head, neck or back injury
- Serious limb impairment or broken bone
And like other telemedicine services, while they can prescribe many medicines over the phone there are some that they aren’t allowed to, either for legal or liability reasons:
- Controlled Substances/Narcotics/opioids (Oxycontin, Morphine, Methadone, Vicodin, Percocet, Fentanyl, T#3, Norco)
- Certain Sedatives and muscle relaxants (Valium, Xanax, Ativan, Klonopin, Restoril)
- Medications that require close monitoring by a healthcare professional (Klonazepam, Abilify, Strattera, Amphetamines, Methotrexate
- Medication that require administration by a healthcare professional or training for first time use (Embrel, Remicade, Epogen)
Telemedicine can fill a vital role for self-pay patients needing reliable access to affordable primary care, as well as anyone else who would prefer not to deal with long waits to get in to see a doctor. It’s great to see another company enter to market catering to self-pay patients, and I hope to hear from satisfied customers of Doctor on Demand sharing their experiences, just as I’ve been able to share the stories of other satisfied patients at other telemedicine providers.