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The Virtual Visit: The Benefits of Meeting with your Doctor Online

May 03, 2017 02:00PM ● By Becca Newell

Just in Time: Telemedicine

By Becca Newell

For most nine-to-fivers, finding time for a doctor’s appointment that doesn’t interfere with a busy schedule is nearly impossible. A friend of mine recently let me in on her secret: take a personal day and schedule any doctor or other health checkups for that day.

But what if you need to be seen under a more immediate circumstance? What if you don’t have time to waste sitting in the waiting room? And, perhaps most importantly, what if you’d prefer to not sit with a handful of flu-infested individuals while waiting for your physician?

Enter: the virtual visit—an online appointment with a U.S. Certified Medical Professional via your smartphone, tablet, or computer. Generally available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, the virtual visit is ideal for non-emergency medical conditions, like bladder/urinary tract infections, sore throats, migraines/headaches, rashes, sinus infections, and stomach aches.

Depending on the provider, patients can call, email, text, or even video chat with a doctor and, depending on your diagnosis, a prescription for treatment can be issued.


Maryland’s former Governor Martin O’Malley signed legislation in May 2012, requiring “state-regulated payers to provide coverage for health care services delivered through telemedicine.” At the time, Maryland was the 14th state to offer such coverage; now all states require some form of coverage.

Another benefit to a virtual visit? No appointment necessary. Simply log on to one of several provider sites—depending on your healthcare insurer, there might be several you can choose from—and you’ll be connected to an available physician.

There may be a little wait time required, but you’ll be in the comfort of your own home; not passing the time avoiding your neighbor’s germs and flicking through the pages of last year’s magazines!


The marketplace for on-demand appointments is continually growing, with several apps offering almost immediate responses to patient’s medical concerns. Either a monthly fee or time-based charge—for example, $40 per 15 minutes—grants access to phone, video, email, text, and/or chatroom consultations. Some health insurance providers may cover a portion of the cost.

Time and convenience aren’t the only benefits of virtual visits; cost is also an attractive advantage. Similar to a regular appointment, your health insurance should cover at least a portion of the cost, and typically, the charge to patients is less than the price of an in-person visit.

It’s important to note, however, that virtual doctor’s visits aren’t intended to entirely replace regular doctor’s appointments. There are still plenty of tests, exams, and consultations that require a physical visit to a physician. Virtual visits are simply an option for over-scheduled individuals who can’t squeeze in a daytime doctor’s appointment. If you’re in need of emergency medical attention, head to an urgent care center or emergency room, immediately.

When to use Virtual Visits

Source: United Healthcare

Good for:

  • Allergies
  • Bronchitis
  • Coughs
  • Diarrhea
  • Fever
  • Pinkeye

Not good for:

  • Anything requiring a hands-on exam
  • Anything requiring a test
  • Cancer or other complex conditions
  • Chronic conditions
  • International visits
  • Sprains/broken bones or injuries
  • that require bandaging

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