In the age of pandemics, we are currently living in, some have been relying on their smartwatch to provide guidance on COVID-19 infection. Most of us discovered that a remote consultation with a doctor was as simple as downloading an app. Telehealth solutions rose quickly as a safe way to safely connect patients and doctors. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) even issued guidelines and recommendations promoting remote consultations to minimize the risks of exposure to SARS-CoV-2.
Before getting into the details, we need to define what are the differences between telehealth and telemedicine. Can we use the words interchangeably? Actually, no! In a nutshell, Telemedicine refers to the use of technology to deliver care remotely.
The scope of Telehealth is broader and also includes non-clinical exams. Even if the terminology carries different legal implications, for the end-user, all of these terms without forgetting e-Health design the same concept of remote care. We will use them interchangeably.
Covid-19 has been an eye-opener for the government and the users alike. In the last months, we saw an unprecedented increase in users’ numbers. In the early days of the pandemic, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) prioritized the use of remote consultations and issued waivers to Medicare program requirements. In return, over 9 million people used telehealth solutions from mid-March through mid-June.
Will this dramatic increase in the number of remote patient monitoring by the presage shift how medical care is provided? Only time will tell! In this article, we will help you navigate through the ocean of telemedicine services and providers. Understanding what remote medicine has to offer is the only way to decide what are the best ways for you to connect with your doctor.
TELEMEDICINE IS NOT A NEW IDEA
Before diving into what new communication technologies and Digital Health devices have to offer, let’s go back in time! Telehealth looks very futuristic but is, in fact, quite an old concept.
Telehealth and communication technologies as an inseparable couple
Connecting physicians and patients rely on the transfer of images and information. During the civil war and the electric telegraph development, information about the casualties and requests for medical supplies was transmitted in real-time using Morse code.
At the beginning of the 20th century, the idea of a “radio doctor” taking care of remote patients was still a science-fiction concept but at least was in the air.
In 1968, the first live project started between the Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) and Logan Airport. Designed to provide emergency services to the travelers using a microwave relay.
Gradually, telehealth solutions were implemented by different states and agencies, such as NASA, to deliver care to remote patients in need of urgent care.
The 21st century or the expansion period for telemedicine
With the improvement of communication and the development of the Internet, Telehealth’s expansion was tele-ICU. By 2010, 5,000+ intensive care units in 250 hospitals were offering some tele-ICU patient care.
Nowadays, the Internet network is fast enough to accommodate most of the needs of telemedicine. An ultra-fast, reliable and low-latency network is absolutely essential for telehealth adoption to continue its adoption journey. Especially when considering the medical IoT devices that also contribute to the flow of information.
For mobile communication, the development of the 5G network is critical for services like tele-ambulance to gain traction. 5G offers unprecedented low-latency speed and better network management that are compatible with the needs of e-Health.
Another critical point to address when selecting a remote doctor is how your private data will be handled and stored. For telecare to continue its widespread adoption, communication and personal medical information should be processed using the most secure standard available.
Best Telehealth Providers to stay healthy
For patients with chronic conditions, telehealth software may be a lifesaver solution. Video conferencing with a doctor is as easy as taking your smartphone out of your pocket. Setting up a live video with a doctor is getting easier and easier. What matters is the reliability of the services being offered.
With the ongoing pandemic, a lot of newcomers started offering new telehealth solutions. Not that they are bad, but some of them have not yet passed the test of time. We have selected only well-established telemedicine solutions and providers.
Teladoc, Inc. (NYSE: TDOC) is, without any doubt, one of the oldest and largest telemedicine solution providers. Founded in 2002 in Dallas, the company is listed on the NYSE and offers virtual consultations to more than 20 million members in 130 countries and 30 different languages.
The platform is robust and easy to use. During the first quarter of 2020, the platform provided more than 2 million online appointments. Ninety-two percent of the medical issues being addressed after a single virtual visit.
It takes 10 mins on average to get connected with a doctor. Thanks to its acquisition of BestDoctors, Teladoc leverages on 3,100+ board-certified physicians and its network of 55,000 medical experts in more than 450 subspecialties. Some of them being world-renowned experts with the ability to provide a second opinion.
Teladoc offers non-emergency, pediatric, dermatologic, sexual health, and mental health consultations. The fees vary from $49 for “everyday care” to $229 for psychiatric visits without insurance coverage.
2. Doctor on Demand
The Covid-19 pandemic acted as a funding accelerator for e-Health providers. Doctor on Demand, a company founded in 2012, completed a $75 million Series D bringing the total capital raised since inception to almost $240 million.
Through its 700 physicians network, Doctor on Demand offers virtual primary and psychiatric care through nearly 3 million patient visits. A standard 15 minutes consultation will cost $75 and $299 for the initial 45 minutes visit with a psychiatrist.
Launched in Palo Alto, California, in 2010, the business model of HealthTap is hybrid as doctors can offer both virtual on-line visits and answer text messages. For $10 a month, patients can access an AI-powered chatbot that will evaluate scan through their massive database of already answered questions, evaluate the symptoms, and provide initial guidance.
Each patient’s Electronic Health Record (EHR) is unique and accessible from any digital device 24/7. It can be especially useful during a visit to a physical doctor or the hospital.
From their humble beginning in Palo Alto, the company have now doctors in more than 3,100 cities covering 137 health specializations. On HealthTap, physicians are carefully chosen and get a score depending on their medical experience and peer ratings.
The company qualifies itself as a Medical Second Opinion platform. Truly global, iCliniq has a network of 3,500 doctors, covering 80 specialties in more than 190 countries. Since the beginning of the pandemic, consultations have increased four-fold from 2019.
iCliniq offers Video consultations, symptoms’ checkers, or chat. A Lab test can even be booked. A technician will then come to your home or hotel and will perform the necessary analyses.
For $30, iCliniq offers 50 hours of chat and 100 hours for $50. The company offers consultations in psychiatry, oncology, obstetrics & gynecology, dentistry, sexology, dermatology, and general medicine.
Founded in 2009, MDlive is part of the health insurance benefit of more than 55 million people. The company offers virtual consultations in numerous specialties. Without insurance coverage, a medical care consultation will cost $82, $75 for dermatology, $108 for therapy, and $284 for psychiatry.
The 15+ years of experience of the doctors being part of the platform make MDlive one of the best-rated telehealth users by users.
Initially established as American Well in Boston in 2006, Amwell is not a newcomer to the telemedicine market. In 2020, not only did Amwell raised $194 million in a Series C funding, but it also established a partnership with Google Cloud to become their preferred supplier of telecare. On top of that, the company also filed for an IPO.
The company provides services in urgent care, pediatrics, chronic disease management, telepsychiatry. A standard visit costs $69 before insurance coverage.
Competition is getting tougher and tougher and tougher between Telemedicine giants. On October 14, 2020, Teladoc filed a lawsuit against Amwell for patent infringement related to medical devices such as digital scope and stethoscope. It is just the last step in the Intellectual property war that is currently raging in the Telehealth space.
From its beginnings in Arizona in 2010 as a platform to treat common injuries and illnesses, MeMD has now more than 5 million members with a 98.4% satisfaction rate.
The platform treats urgent care ($67), Men’s health ($67), women’s health($67), talk therapy-$85), teen’s therapy($67), and Psychiatry($229 for the initial visit and $99 for the follow-up ones). Prescriptions can also be established and sent to your pharmacy of choice.
8. LiveHealth Online
LiveHealth Online offers virtual visits in general medicine and allergy ($59), psychology ($80 per visit with a therapist, and $95 with a psychologist). In psychiatry, the initial consultation costs $175 and $75 for the follow-ups, making the platform one of the best-priced for psychiatric care if your insurance doesn’t cover.
Their app. is especially well rated with 4.9 stars on the App Store, and more than 4 on Google Play.
9. Steady MD
Steady MD is a bit different from the other platform because the same doctor is assigned to the patient, which helps establish a more personal relationship. This service costs $99 per month for individuals and $178 per month for the family plan.
Steady MD introduced the concept of functional medicine to the telehealth market. Especially well suited for chronic diseases, the patient is treated holistically. A full health plan will be prepared, addressing the areas to provide long-term health benefits: sleep, exercise, stress, nutrition, and human connection. In that sense, the offer of Steady MD is truly unique in the e-health marketplace.
Telemedicine is here to stay. 2020 is the year public health systems really realized the many benefits offered by this new means of delivering care. Mobile apps are the perfect way to social distance, avoid waiting rooms, and receive the best care possible. Telehealth will also greatly benefit from the development of the 5g network.
The development of the use of Telehealth and cloud-based virtual care will also improve patient engagement and ultimately benefit both payers and users. We look forward to the next steps of this ongoing Health revolution to use technology to put back patients in control of their health.
|Teladoc||2002||Everyday Care / Children & Family / Mental Health / Medical Experts / Wellness & Preventin||$49 for everyday care / $229 for first psychiatric visit|
|Doctor on Demand||2012||Urgent Care / Behavioral Health / Preventive Health / Chronic Care||$75 per visit / $299 for initial psychiatric consultation|
|HealthTap||2010||Virtual consultation / Chatbot||$10 per month|
|iCliniq||80 specialities||$30 per month for 30 hours of chat / $50 for 100 hours|
|MDlive||2009||virtual consultations in numerous specialties||$82 for consultation, $284 for psychiatry|
|Amwell||2006||urgent care, pediatrics, chronic disease management, telepsychiatry||$69 for standard visit|
|MeMD||2010||Urgent care, Men’s health, women’s health, talk therapy, teen’s therapy, Psychiatry||From $67 to $229|
|LiveHealth Online||Medical, Allergy, Psychology, Psychiatry||From $59 to $175|
|Steady MD||Functional medicine||From $199|