Everything You Need To Know About Telemedicine vs. Virtual Care
Due to time and money, more and more people are interested in seeing online doctors. But knowing where to start when you’re new to the concept can be daunting. What’s the difference between telemedicine and virtual care? And how do you make an online doctor appointment? These are key questions you should have a basic understanding of before you book your first telemedicine appointment.
What is Telemedicine?
The rising healthcare costs over the recent years have presented a problem for people trying to gain quick access to common yet acute health issues. Waiting for weeks for an appointment with their Primary Care Physicians isn’t an option, and that is if they have one. And sitting for hours in an Urgent Care waiting room to be seen for a UTI isn’t time effective. The advancement of technology created a solution. Telemedicine.
WHO, the World Health Organization, defines telemedicine as “healing from a distance“. Telemedicine is the practice of medicine utilizing modern technology to offer medical care from a distance. An online doctor in one location can administer treatment to a patient in their home or office by telephone, tablet, or computer. These appointments can decrease the cost of practicing medicine allowing the co-pays or payments to be reduced from those of Urgent Care and Emergency Room visits and often even your PCP.
According to The American Journal of Accountable Care, “The use of telemedicine has been shown to allow for better long-term care management and patient satisfaction.”
Today, when lifestyles are hectic, saving time by removing long waits at medical facilities to have your minor health issues diagnosed could be preferable.
What is Virtual Care?
So while telemedicine is the practice of online doctors administering medicine to address illnesses, virtual care, also known as telehealth, is somewhat different. Virtual care refers to a broad range of healthcare services delivered virtually to provide care at a distance.
While telemedicine leans more towards acute treatment, virtual care covers an extensive range of services, such as preventive care, health coaching, mental health services, nutritional coaching, and more. While care may include administering medicine, it also includes preventive care and reversing harmful behaviors and health issues.
Virtual care can include online doctors, dieticians, coaches, nurse practitioners, psychologists, naturopathic doctors, and other healthcare workers.
What’s the Difference?
So what is the difference between telemedicine and virtual care? Both are addressing your medical needs via telecommunications, but they have different purposes. Telemedicine is looking to address acute illnesses just as a physical doctor would if you became sick and needed to get in for a prescription-only it is done virtually.
Virtual care manages your overall health via online communication. It looks at a broader scope and can involve a multitude of healthcare providers.
Either way, you might talk to an online doctor. Making an online doctor appointment is still easy, but you can also make one for the other healthcare practitioners in their practice that help manage your health. Virtual care often does more than manage care; it can also educate and provide an extensive plan of action to restore your health and includes preventive health and deals with the root cause of your illness.
Also, because telemedicine deals with acute medicine, you might see a different online doctor each time you have an online doctor appointment. While with virtual care, you generally work with a dedicated team that you see regularly and are able to build a relationship with.
How Does an Online Doctor Visit Work?
Visiting an online doctor or healthcare professional is quick and easy, whether for a virtual care or telemedicine visit. There is no travel time or sitting restlessly in cold waiting rooms. You can make an online doctor appointment and attend the appointment from the comfort of your own home.
You will need access to a camera, microphone, and speaker on your phone, tablet, or computer. You will need to verify who you are before beginning your appointment. Your online doctor is a board-certified doctor who is licensed in your state, and the other healthcare professionals you might see have all of their appropriate state licenses and certifications as well. Appropriate licensing is required of every professional working in the online health industry.
Once you log into your appointment, you might have to wait a few moments in a “waiting room”, this is usually a very short duration and nowhere near the amount of time you would spend in a physical office. When the doctor is ready, they will log in and ask you to look directly into the camera so they can properly identify you. Then they will ask you a series of questions to establish why you are there. From there, your appointment would be much like a physical appointment, only there is no weigh-in, and your vitals are not taken.
Otherwise, your online doctor appointment is very similar to your physical doctor or other healthcare professional.
Do I Need to See a Physical Doctor?
For some health issues, you will still need to see a physical doctor. And for some healthcare platforms, like Ciba Health, you will need to have seen a physician within the past 3 years. Once this has happened, Ciba Health can offer ongoing support through video conferences, phone calls, and messaging.
Types of Appointments Suited for Online Doctor Appointments
Not every type of medical issue is suited for online doctor appointments but many are. Some various examples are:
- Cold & flu symptoms
- Pink eye
- Urinary tract infections
- Skin infections & rashes
- Sinus infections
- Mental health
- Preventative health
Why Does My Online Doctor Need to See My ID?
Before your online doctor or healthcare professional can proceed with your online telemedicine appointment, you must have your identity confirmed. How this is done is by giving your government-issued ID and sometimes your insurance photo. For Ciba Health, you will provide your government-issued ID and a second clear face photo.
When the doctor comes on the video screen, you will look directly into the camera so the online doctor can compare your face with that of your government-issued identification. This ensures you are who you present yourself to be so that your medical records are accurate.
Is a Video Chat Required?
If you are wondering if a video chat is required for your online doctor appointment, well, it depends. It’s a matter of your state regulations. Some states require all appointments to be via video. In other states, your telemedicine appointments can be via phone or message. These non-video appointments are usually after initial contact has been made, however.
Is it Legal to Get an Online Prescription?
Online prescriptions, are they legal? While you cannot just obtain an online prescription with a few clicks of your mouse, you can meet with an online doctor, who may prescribe medication if needed. You must consult a medical doctor first, either by video chat or phone, to obtain an online prescription.
How Do I Make a Virtual Care Appointment?
While every online healthcare platform is different, at Ciba Health, you will select “Book a first appointment” under the onboarding to-do list to book your telemedicine appointment. You can also choose “Appointments” from the left navigation bar to secure your online doctor appointment. In addition to that, you can select a specialist in the “Book an appointment” section on the dashboard.
Is Online healthcare safe?
Online healthcare is safe and effective if the patients answer questions truthfully. However, that is the case whether visiting an online doctor or a physical one. The care you receive from doctors and other healthcare professionals is only adequate when they have a full and accurate picture from which to work with, both with online doctor appointments and physical doctor visits.
When working with online doctors, it is a partnership where they rely on you to provide them with accurate information so they can correctly assess your needs and prescribe appropriate medications, request lab work, or modify behavior. Your responsibility is to read your healthcare plan then follow through. It is essential to make the most of your telemedicine appointment by being honest with your online doctor and following the plan of action.
In virtual care appointments, you are getting a different level of care as the support is more involved than a one-time visit. So you build a relationship with your providers. Building a relationship provides a certain level of trust that helps in establishing an open line of communication and a safer environment for care.
How Much Does it Cost?
When booking your telemedicine appointment, you may wonder how much it cost. According to khn.org the average online doctor appointment is $79 as opposed to $146 for an in-office visit. At Ciba Health, we offer an all-inclusive virtual care package with the Complete Care Plan.
The plan includes:
- 12 months of care
- 4 doctor visits
- 4 health coach visits
- Functional health report
- Access to advanced biomarker testing
- Unlimited messaging
- 24/7 access to Ciba Health platform
- 1 mental health consultation
Ciba Health also offers a Root Cause Discovery Plan for $194, a 2 week-long program to help determine the root of your health issues and address them holistically with a roadmap to good health.
Are Telehealth Visits Reimbursable?
At Ciba Health, your online doctor appointments and those with our other healthcare professionals are all part of our programs, and you can use your HSA/FSA dollars to pay for your program or get the cost reimbursed to you if you should pay out of pocket. Most insurance companies will fully cover our Depression & Anxiety program. We will gladly prepare a superbill for you to submit to your insurance provider for reimbursement.
A Matter of Convenience
Seeing an online doctor is the wave of the future. Saving time, effort, and money makes online doctor appointments a perfect way to manage your healthcare. Whether you are searching for telemedicine to meet your acute medical needs or want to regain control of your health with virtual care, online appointments could be right for you. Virtual care can help you find the root cause of your health issue, create a detailed plan to control or improve the issues you are facing and start living a better life. With Ciba Health’s lifestyle plans, there are options waiting for you.
Start restoring your health today. To find out more about how you can get started with one of our plans, click HERE.