Whether or not you’ve gotten used to to connecting with family, friends and colleagues over Zoom and FaceTime—virtual life is becoming a new reality for all of us.
But what about going to the doctor? With the COVID-19 pandemic, you may have concerns about going in for a physical doctor’s visit when a health issue pops up. Fortunately, many providers are available to see you virtually, through telehealth. Using your phone, tablet or a computer, the provider can answer your questions, evaluate your symptoms and provide a diagnosis or support. (In the U.S., 46% of consumers are getting onboard with telehealth.)
Here, we’ll cover the types of care you can get with telehealth, and where to find affordable options based on your insurance coverage and budget.
What Types of Care Can I Get Using Telehealth?
Telehealth is particularly helpful for chronic disease management, post-hospitalization care, preliminary evaluation, follow-up visits and preventative care. For example, you may be able to get:
- General health care, like wellness visits
- Prescriptions for medicine
- Dermatology (skincare)
- Dental visits
- Eye exams
- Nutrition counseling
- Mental health counseling
- Urgent care conditions, such as sinusitis, back pain, urinary tract infections, and common rashes
If you have concerns about symptoms for COVID-19, you can use several free online screening tools (like the CDC Coronavirus Self-Checker or COVID-19 Screening Tool) to find out what to do next. If you do need to speak with a doctor, most insurers and telehealth services are waiving payments for appointments during this national emergency.
If You Have a Doctor, Start by Calling Their Practice
Even if your doctor didn’t previously offer telehealth, many are now integrating telehealth into their practice. Here are some questions to ask when you call:
- Are you offering telehealth?
- If yes, how will you keep my health information secure?
- Is a telehealth visit a good choice for my health condition?
- How do I schedule a telehealth visit?
For the time being, some insurers are covering telehealth visits just like regular in-person office visits—you’d pay whatever your normal office copay is. Other health insurance companies have gone a step further, temporarily waiving all fees for any type of telehealth visit.
Tip: If you have an HSA, you can now use those funds to cover telehealth or other remote-care services below the deductible.
Check with Your Insurance Company
Your health insurance company can help connect you to care when you need it. Some companies offer telehealth through online portals or apps that can be downloaded on your phone. To find out about your options, check your insurance company’s website or give them a call.
Tip: Most insurance companies have a free health advice line (usually on the back of your ID card), which members can call to speak with a nurse or pharmacist right away.
If You Don’t Have Health Insurance, You Still Have Options
There are several companies that offer telehealth services for an out-of-pocket charge even if you don’t have insurance. To find a doctor, you can use this digital health directory or try platforms like Doctor on Demand, Teladoc, and Amwell. Platforms like myCovidMD are also providing free testing and telehealth services to underserved communities who are affected by the pandemic. If you’re taking prescriptions, or want to consult a provider about taking one for treatment, Blink Health offers telehealth consults starting as low as $5 for conditions like high cholesterol, birth control, cold sores, erectile dysfunction, and hair loss.
Other Emergency Hotlines
There are many reputable hotlines you can contact for answers to questions about urgent health concerns, including:
- The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI): 1-800-950-6264. NAMI operates an emergency mental health hotline Monday–Friday from 10 am to 6 pm EST. Operators can provide information about mental illness and refer callers to treatment, support groups, family support, and legal support, if needed.
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA): 1-800-662-4357. SAMHSA runs a 24-hour mental health hotline that provides education, support, and connections to treatment (available in English and Spanish). It also offers an online to help you find suitable behavioral health treatment programs.
- Crisis Text Line: Text CONNECT to 741741. Specialized crisis counselors are just a text message away on this free, confidential 24-hour support line. To further protect your privacy, these messages do not appear on a phone bill. The text line also provides services and support if you are upset, scared, hurt, frustrated, or distressed.
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255. Crisis intervention and free emotional support are available 24/7, including live online chat.
- Poison Control: 1-800-222-1222. For help if you took too much of a medicine, swallowed something that might be poisonous, splashed a product on your eye or skin, or inhaled fumes.