The internet has made its mark on all aspects of life, including medical care. More than ever, patients are interested in exploring telehealth for themselves and their loved ones. However, it’s important for everyone interested in telemedicine to conduct their due diligence. That way, they can avoid the pitfalls and gain the advantages of virtual care.
What are some of the overall benefits that proper telehealth provides? Studies have shown that people with access to telemedicine may take better care of themselves. They also could spend less on doctors’ bills. Plus, researchers have discovered that monitoring via a virtual physician reduced the risk of dying by up to 40% for some populations.
Despite these positive aspects of telehealth, it’s important for you to make sure any telemedicine solution you consider will be safe. Below are a few things to think about when investigating telehealth providers.
Does the company offer credentialed healthcare professionals?
You expect to be seen by doctors who are trained and legally allowed to practice medicine, whether they’re online or in person. Look for evidence that the physicians you’ll be working with are legitimate professionals with the necessary background and expertise. Don’t just rely on what the telemedicine site says, either. Do your own homework by Googling them and reading patient reviews, if available. The more you can verify a medical professional’s authenticity, the greater your peace of mind will be when you “visit” them virtually.
Does the company put privacy front and center?
Patient privacy is a huge concern among people choosing to work with doctors and other healthcare personnel over the internet. Make sure you’re satisfied that your provider of choice values patient privacy. For instance, telehealth company Nurx offers secure messaging with providers and discreet packaging, which is especially critical because it deals with patients with questions and concerns regarding sensitive topics like HPV and emergency contraception.
Does the company follow clinically responsible and ethical procedures?
Authorized telehealth companies will naturally lay out medical protocols that are clinically sound and sensible. Although it might be tempting to hear that a so-called telemedicine provider can get you any prescription you want, you have to be careful. Does that sound like something that an ethical and credentialed organization would do? At the first sign of any red flags or corner cutting, run — don’t walk — away from the provider. There are lots of authorized and honorable telehealth options that won’t get you in potential trouble. Besides, if you can’t trust your telemedicine provider, how can you trust that the pills they send are safe?
Does the company work with well-known insurance providers?
To be fair, some telemedicine companies don’t work with any insurance carriers at all to limit the need for endless layers of paperwork or to keep costs low. On the other hand, some telehealth providers do accept healthcare insurance from some of the biggest providers like UnitedHealthcare, Cigna, and Aetna. Become familiar with your own insurance, as well as whether a potential telemedicine provider can accept that insurance. You should probably even call your insurance provider to find out if virtual healthcare visits are covered, regardless of what the telehealth company says. The last thing you want is to receive a bill for services that you thought would be mostly or completely underwritten by insurance.
Does the company make connecting with healthcare representatives convenient?
Who wants to be put on hold endlessly or be treated like a number? Not you, particularly when you’re worried about your health. Your telehealth provider should be available when you need them as explained on their website. If it’s tough to get in touch with a live representative, you’re not going to appreciate being a patient. A smart way to evaluate whether a telehealth company is truly as customer-centric as it says it is to call to ask a question. You’ll find out pretty rapidly whether you’re treated like gold or a number.
Does the company provide patient education?
Most doctors like to educate their patients, whether they see them online or in their offices. Snoop around a telehealth provider’s website to see if it seems to be interested in transferring knowledge to the consumer. For instance, does it answer questions that prospective patients will want to ask? Is the website written so you completely understand what you’re getting? You want to work with a telehealth provider that values the transfer of information so you can become more informed and empowered about your own healthcare decisions.
Can you find reviews about the company?
Just as you wouldn’t buy a piece of furniture online without checking what other consumers say, resist signing on with a telehealth organization before being able to learn more from actual patients. To be sure, some telehealth companies are relatively new to the scene. Yet even emerging ones have patients, which means they’ll probably have reviews, reports, and ratings.
Does the company provide remote healthcare specifically for non-emergency situations?
Telemedicine is not meant for life-or-death situations. If you come across a telehealth company that claims to be able to diagnose or treat life-threatening emergencies, look for a different source. Emergencies always require a visit to a local urgent care clinic or ER. Otherwise, you risk not getting the immediate intervention you deserve, which could risk your safety or even life.
Telehealth has become part of the regular healthcare landscape for many patients and doctors. Who knows? Your family doctor may soon ask you to arrange for virtual follow-ups or to diagnose basic problems like sore throats or skin rashes. However, if you’re going to choose a telemedicine provider you’ve never met before based on what you can find out virtually, exercise caution. Lots of great companies are out there, but you have to sort them out from the ones that don’t have your best interests at heart.