About Author — Margaret Spera is a Connecticut-based nurse practitioner. She has worked in hospital settings, family practices and senior care facilities for over 40 years.

Most PlushCare articles are reviewed by M.D.s, Ph.Ds, N.P.s, nutritionists and other healthcare professionals. Click here to learn more and meet some of the professionals behind our blog.

Benefits of Online Doctor Consultations

Online doctor consultations are a new way to get diagnosed, prescribed, and treated. Instead of taking the time and effort to go to a doctor or urgent care center people can now be treated in the comfort of their own homes. This makes access to healthcare not just more affordable but more widespread reaching even the most remote areas. Read on to learn more about the benefits of online doctor consultations.

Online Consultations vs. Urgent Care Centers

The Urgent Care Association of America estimates about 7,100 urgent care centers in the United States. In 2014, each individual urgent care center averaged about 14,000 visits, which breaks down to about 50 per day and 4 per hour.

As necessary as urgent care centers are to community health, they come with plenty of drawbacks that may hinder accessibility. Thankfully, with the advent of new technology and telecommunications, online doctors and telehealth have become viable alternatives for those in need of urgent care.

But why should you consider an online doctor instead of an in-person doctor visit? Let’s take a look at some of the benefits of online doctor consultations.

Some Drawbacks with In-Person Urgent Care

Urgent care centers and walk-in clinics are a necessary source of health care for communities throughout the country. They often offer a more affordable solution to those who don’t have health insurance or have accessibility issues based on language, background, or physical ability.

One of the biggest problems is the dwindling numbers. Declining resources and staffing shortages have led to fewer urgent care centers. That essentially means a low supply of a service that still remains in high demand. Those that are available often have limited hours or are not open on weekends, which can be difficult for those with traditional 9-to-5 jobs.

This can force many potential patients to travel to neighboring towns to get urgent care. However, this poses its own problems. On top of gas money and traffic, travel can be difficult for those who do not own a car or have easy access to public transportation.

All of these factors ultimately lead to longer wait times (often over an hour) and congested waiting rooms. This only adds further physical and mental stress, which can be detrimental to your  health.

Crowded waiting rooms also make you more susceptible to potential healthcare-associated infections. This category refers to any infection that you may contract in a healthcare environment, including catheter-related urinary tract infections and surgical infections.

It’s just as easy to pick up an infection in a waiting room. Imagine waiting for over an hour in a packed waiting room where other ill people are coughing and sneezing. As hard as you try, you may end up walking out of the urgent care center with a cold, flu, or other contagious illness.

Benefits of Online Doctor Consultations

Online doctor consultations and telehealth services do away with many of the drawbacks of physical urgent care centers and improve on the process through more streamlined services. Some of the big benefits of online doctor consultations:

No Location Boundaries

Traffic, gas, parking, waiting for the bus. With online doctor consultations, you don’t have to worry about any of it. You gain access to a wide range of trained and experienced medical professionals without needing to travel a step outside of your home. Even if there are zero urgent care centers in your city, you can still get expert help with one phone call.

Improving on Self-Diagnoses

With the internet, it is easy to find whatever information you want wherever you are. Unfortunately, that often leads to misdiagnosis.

Reading blogs and medical articles can admittedly give you some important information about general health, but may not be useful relative to  what’s bothering you. Everyone is different. No single article can tell you what you as an individual are going through.

At best, an incorrect self-diagnosis will have no effect, leaving you feeling as bad as you have been. At worst, it can be dangerous possibly leading to some serious complications.

Online doctor consultations are a significant step up from looking  symptoms up in a search engine. They give you the opportunity to speak with an actual doctor, receive a diagnosis, and get a personalized treatment plan. No more guessing about what your body is doing.

A Cost-Effective Solution

Online doctor consultations present an affordable, cost-effective solution. Many online doctors accept most major forms of health insurance, allowing for visits that are cheap or completely free, but they also offer a viable, inexpensive option for those who do not currently have health insurance.

Without insurance, an in-person doctor visit will cost on average about $120 to $150. By comparison, speaking with an online doctor costs about $40 to $100 without insurance. Most online doctor services have a fixed fee for a certain amount of time, usually 10 minutes.

In terms of cost, online doctor visits are most beneficial to those patients who do not have insurance or have high deductibles. That reduced cost means that people who would normally stay at home are actually seeking help and getting better.

Easy Prescription Process

If your personalized treatment plan requires a prescription, your online doctor can prescribe you medication remotely. They will simply send the prescription to a pharmacy near you that can be picked up at your convenience.

There are some medications online doctors cannot prescribe. These are controlled substances and include:

  • Narcotics (Vicodin, Percocet, morphine)
  • Sedatives and sleep aids (Ambien, Ativan, Xanax)
  • Psychiatric medications (Prozac, Abilify, Zoloft)
  • Stimulants (Adderall, Provigil, Ritalin)
  • Medical marijuana

Otherwise, as long as your doctor deems it medically warranted, you can receive prescriptions for a wide range of medications that can bolster your immune system and eliminate infections.

Antibiotics and allergy medication tend to be most commonly prescribed by online doctors, but the service can be especially beneficial for those in need of refills for ongoing medications such as asthma medication or birth control.

Security and Expertise

Two main things that anyone using an online service tend to worry about are security and the experience and knowledge of those helping them. Thankfully, online doctors have plenty of both. In terms of security, online doctors, like PlushCare, use secure systems and servers to ensure that your information stays safe and confidential.

Most should outright state that they comply with HIPAA, or the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. HIPAA was passed in 1996 and ensures protections to the privacy and security of your health information, including any information held or transferred digitally.

All reputable online health services heavily vet their doctors. At PlushCare, all of our doctors have been trained at the top medical institutions in the country, including Stanford, Harvard, UCLA, UCSF, Yale, Baylor, and others. Consider that all online doctors are also full-time doctors offline as well. They just happen to extend their services through the internet as well as in a doctor’s office.

Comfort and Convenience

At the end of the day, it all comes down to convenience. Most online doctor consultation services are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, allowing you to see a doctor without interrupting your own busy schedule. You can also conveniently see the doctor wherever you are, whether you’re stuck at home, out and about, or working hard in your office.

That level of convenience also contributes to better connections between doctor and patient. Being in the comfort of your own home makes it easier for you to open up to your doctor about symptoms and how you’re feeling. That comfort adds to the relief of knowing you don’t have to wait long hours in a room or go to the emergency room just to get a prescription.

Remaining at  home also ensures that you don’t potentially infect doctors, staff members, or other patients with your illness.

Self-Sufficiency and Knowledge

Because the doctor is not there in person to examine you, visualization via smart phone or computer will assist in diagnosis.  This visualization of enlarged lymph nodes or the inflamed tissue in the back of your throat allows for better and more accurate diagnosis.

This process can increase your understanding of  your own health and symptoms. Examining yourself under a doctor’s guidance also helps you monitor your condition throughout the course of your treatment, giving you a better idea of when to stop or when to ask for more assistance.

If you need medical help, consider consulting an online doctor. You can book an appointment with PlushCare and see a doctor today.

PlushCare takes content accuracy seriously so we can be your trusted source of medical information. Most articles are reviewed by M.D.s, Ph.D.s, NPs, or NDs. Click here to meet the healthcare professionals behind the blog.

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