The Doctor Will (Virtually) See You Now

There's a new(ish) way to get your health care. It's called telemedicine - but what is it? 

What is telemedicine? It's a simple concept: talking to a doctor on the phone. At Hippo Health, we call it a 'new-old' concept. New because it still seems to be in an early adoption phase in its V2 iteration, and old because your grandparents likely used telemedicine regularly. It hearkens back to a time when health care was simpler, easier, and personal. When you needed care, you called your doctor. Your doctor would then, if necessary, drive out to your house and, well, care for you. Since then our system has become layered - overburdened clinics, insurance plans, co-pays, deductibles, Urgent Care vs ER visits, endless new regulation and legislation - and countless nuanced, behind-the-scenes changes that our beleaguered health care system struggles to keep up with.

Telemedicine is the fastest growing segment of the health care industry, due to its direct-to-doctor approach using new technology. Feeling ill? Persistent rash? A UTI? Let a doctor diagnose you in minutes via text, audio or video. Skip the waiting room, skip the co-pay, skip the insurance run-around. 

Why choose telemedicine?

There are many excellent reasons to choose telemedicine over traditional office visits. Because smartphone communication methods have evolved to include video chat, texting, sharing audio files and more, doctors are able to diagnose patients quickly and effectively. Telemedicine doctors can also prescribe non-opiates (due to abuse of opiates such as hydrocodone, codeine and vicodin, these drugs are prescribed via in-office visits only) and provide referrals for specialists if necessary. 

Telemedicine can also save you money and time. On average, children get sick about six times a year; for working parents, that's a considerable amount of time out of the office, resulting in lost wages and/or vacation days. For recurring ailments such as UTIs or the common cold, a visit to the doctor may be unnecessary. Then there are the financial aspects of visiting a doctor. With today's high-deductible plans, many of us are responsible for paying for the first $1,000-$2,500 in health care expenses before insurance kicks in, and doctor office visits often require an additional $20-$50 in co-pays. Fees asociated with talking to a doctor on your phone tend to be quite a bit lower (Hippo Health plans start at $19/month), offering patients a low-cost, affordable option for health care.

What conditions and ailments is telemedicine good for?

Telemedicine is a great tool when caring for colds, coughs, the flu, recurring prescriptions, bug bites, skin rashes and other common illnesses. For unidentified deep-tissue lumps or signs of serious or life-threatening illnesses, a visit to the ER or your doctor is still the route to take. Telemedicine is great way to start the conversation with a doctor on a particular health issue to monitor its progress.

Who can benefit from telemedicine?

Telemedicine meets the needs of several groups in particular, including parents, the self-employed and senior populations. If you're lacking in comprehensive coverage, telemedicine fills the health care gaps. Parents with infants or young children can also save time and money, avoiding a continuous cycle of office visits. Older adults with recurring health issues and/or mobility limitations also benefit from access to a doctor without leaving home. Those who need prescriptions filled regularly (UTIs, birth control, asthmatic medication, etc.) no longer need to schedule appointments to get the medication they need.

It's heartening to see the doctor-on-demand model growing and revolutionizing how people get care. As health care costs rise, we are also seeing a growing number of disruptive companies trying to simplify the health care model and alleviate the cost burden for consumers (Orderly and Dispatch, to name a few). We can only hope that telemedicince and other options for easy, affordable access to doctorscontinues to work its way into mainstream medicine.

For more on the Hippo Health mission, visit our Why Us page.



Kevin McGarvey