Best Telemedicine Companies 2019 - Doctor Visits by Phone or App
We looked at the 14 best telemedicine services that work directly with customers. Based on our research, our pick for the overall best one is Amwell. This service costs just $59 per consultation, and it's available at all hours. This makes it an ideal option for non-emergency, urgent-care needs such as getting a prescription for allergies or getting a sick note for work.
If you are a doctor's office looking to work with a telemedicine service, refer to the guide on telemedicine for health care professionals published by our sister site, Business.com.
Amwell’s virtual urgent-care service is available 24/7. Its board-certified doctors have an average of 15 years of experience, and the service costs just $59 – and even less with insurance.
Doctor On Demand
Doctor On Demand is available to everyone, with or without insurance. And the visits cost just $75, which is far less than a standard urgent-care or emergency room.
Our pick for best specialist care is 2nd.MD because it's built around expert specialist physicians who can provide second opinions on complicated conditions, saving you time and money on in-office visits.
Amwell is our pick for the overall best telemedicine service for urgent-care conditions because it makes it easy to speak to an experienced physician any time – 24 hours a day, seven days a week. For non-emergencies, this service is a great way to avoid waiting in a clinic.
Using a streaming app or via phone call, Amwell connects you to doctors for consultations. Consultations start at $59, though they may cost less if you have insurance. The service accepts most major insurance carriers.
Through the virtual meeting, Amwell’s doctors can diagnose and treat a wide variety of illnesses and conditions, all of which are listed on the website in both alphabetical order and searchable format. Once you connect with a physician, they can diagnose symptoms and prescribe most medications as needed. However, they don't prescribe controlled substances, such as narcotics.
While this telehealth service is good for treating urgent-care conditions, you can also talk to doctors to get health advice. To speak to a doctor, you select one from a list – you can review the doctor's education and experience before you schedule an appointment with them. Visits typically run 10 minutes, which is about the national average for common conditions. If you need to add more time, you can.
Best Value for People Without Insurance
Doctor On Demand has a $75 flat rate for people without insurance, which is why it's our pick for the best value – you can get affordable treatment for urgent-care conditions, even if you are uninsured. In addition, it's open all the time, which means you can talk to a doctor the moment you need to instead of waiting until the next day.
As with most telehealth services, Doctor On Demand treats urgent-care conditions, not emergencies like broken arms or stitches. The conditions the service treats are listed at the top of the website and are broken into medical care and mental health categories. This makes it easy to confirm whether you can receive treatment before you talk to a doctor.
One of Doctor On Demand’s relatively unique features is its preventative care services. For example, the service offers lab screenings. You choose a local lab to have your blood drawn at, and Doctor On Demand will review the results and make suggestions for preventative health measures. The doctors can also prescribe medicine for quitting smoking, weight loss and other issues.
In addition to medical assistance, there are psychologists and psychiatrists you can schedule appointments with for online therapy. They treat depression, addictions, social anxiety, trauma and workplace stress as well as social issues. Like the doctors, psychiatrists can prescribe medication. Doctor on Demand has an online assessment you can take to help you determine if you could benefit from telepsychology.
With experts in over 120 medical fields from some of the most prestigious hospitals in the world, 2nd.MD is the best solution for getting a second opinion on a complicated condition. After you receive a diagnosis from your primary physician, you can set up a virtual consultation to have another specialist look over your medical records. While it's not cheap, it's often more affordable than scheduling an in-office appointment with a local specialist.
Unlike many telemedicine services, which are aimed at urgent-care treatment, this service is ideal for situations where you're changing medication or having surgery or just received a new diagnosis. In addition, 2nd.MD is often used for patients who don't have specialists in their local area.
Unique to 2nd.MD, you get concierge care, which means a dedicated care team handles your case from the beginning to the end. That way, you don't get a new doctor every time you have a new consultation for the same condition. In addition, 2nd.MD arranges to have your medical records transferred to its doctors from your primary physician prior to your meeting.
Seeing a specialist is never cheap, and 2nd.MD is no exception. With a $3,000 consultation fee, it's far from being the most affordable telemedicine service. While this service doesn't discuss insurance coverage on its website, it does work with businesses to provide its service as an employee benefit. If your company has an agreement with 2nd.MD, then you may get your consultations at no charge.
Best for Mental Health Treatments
Most telemedicine services focus on treating non-emergency ailments and providing easy prescription refills. MeMD treats up to 40 medical ailments over video or phone. However, this service stands out for its comprehensive mental health and behavioral health treatments.
You can schedule a one-on-one appointment in the comfort and safety of your home and speak with a mental health professional for 50 minutes. The service works with certified therapists in your state, and they help with mental health issues, and stress related and social issues as well. For example, if you're struggling with a divorce, domestic abuse or LGBTQ issues, you can set up an appointment and receive support and advice from a licensed professional. Other telemedicine services provide some access to mental health treatments, but none are as comprehensive or affordable. Appointments cost $57.95 per visit. The service doesn't accept health insurance, so this is the same price whether you have insurance or not. However, the service does accept payments from FSA, HSA and HRA accounts.
Best for Second Opinions
Second Opinions is a different kind of telemedicine service. Unlike most telemedicine services centered on providing fast, easy access to doctors for minor ailments like the flu or a sprained ankle, this telemedicine service is best for second opinions from specialized physicians in all areas of medicine.
Getting a second opinion on a diagnosis is a staple of one's personal health responsibilities, but it isn’t always easy. If you live in a small town, you may have to travel hundreds of miles to see another specialist for a second opinion. With this telemedicine service, you get second opinions from radiologists, oncologists, surgeons, orthopedics and other specialties, without leaving your home. If the physician requires labs or other information, they work with your local Doctor. However, since the service is specialized, the prices are much higher than other telemedicine services. The most affordable plan, for example, is $699 for a year.
Why Trust Us
Top Ten Reviews has been covering telemedicine services since 2016, but we've been reviewing senior care and health-related technology, services and software since 2004. Every year, hundreds of hours are devoted to testing, researching and evaluating products in these categories, all with the aim of helping you make the best purchase for you.
I've been an expert reviewer for Purch since 2013, reviewing a wide variety of senior care products for Top Ten Reviews and Dignifyed. I've reviewed medical alert services, fall detection pendants, GPS medical alert systems, glucometers, power scooters, stair lifts and hearing aids.
For products I can test hands on, I use a thorough and devoted approach to testing. For example, I pricked my finger multiple times a day while testing blood glucose meters. For fall detection pendants, I literally fell to the ground dozens of times. With products that aren't easily testable, I bring years of experience, which includes three years as a graduate student, researching the finer details of products and services so I can make appropriate evaluations.
How Much Do Telemedicine Services Cost?
If the telemedicine service accepts your insurance, the cost of an appointment is no different from whatever co-pay your insurance requires. However, some services don't take insurance but each service does accept patients regardless of insurance coverage. If you don't have insurance, most services charge between $30 and $75 per visit. That said, it depends on the kind of doctor you request to speak with. The more specialized a doctor is, the more expensive the appointment is.
How We Tested
Testing telehealth services is not practical, as we don't feel its ethical to waste doctors’ time with unnecessary appointments. It's also worth noting that our pick for the best telemedicine service may not be the best choice for you – it matters little how many doctors a service has or how well the site is designed if you don't get the help you need for your specific problem. Of course, this is an issue relative to all medical practices.
As such, we based our picks on research and evaluation of available features. We treated the websites like the physicians’ offices – evaluating how easy they are to navigate and how transparent they are about payments, insurance and patient privacy. The best telemedicine services are upfront about the costs, insurance coverage and the conditions they can treat. In addition, they should be upfront about the types of medications they can and cannot prescribe. And they should provide background information for each doctor in their databases.
We looked closely at how each service’s website is designed, preferring those like Amwell’s, which provides exceptionally detailed information about the conditions it can treat, including a searchable page of the conditions. We also checked what the minimum payment is, what insurance plans the service accepts and the number of conditions it covers.
What Else You Should Know About Telemedicine Services
Unlike when you go to the ER and are under the care of whichever doctor is on call, you get to choose the best telemedicine service for you. Whether you choose one of the 10 services on our list or seek out another one, take time to find out if the company offers qualified and competent medical staff that fit your needs. Here are some tips to help you:
Licensed in your state as well as their own.
Each state has its own medical licensing laws and regulations, and while most states are enacting laws that take telemedical services into account, not every service works in all 50 states.
Even if a telehealth service works in your state, with some, you may have limited choice in doctors. This is especially important to consider when consulting with specialists, as you are less likely to find one licensed in your state than if you are looking for a family physician. Further, some states require separate protocols for prescribing medication virtually, so be sure to ask about this as well.
Member of the American Telemedicine Association (ATA).
The ATA is a non-profit professional association with 10,000 members in the health care industry. It offers its members training through webinars, courses and conferences. Physicians and companies who are members of the ATA have access to cutting edge telemedicine technology and the latest advances, plus continuing education specifically focused on treating patients in the virtual arena.
Just because a doctor is licensed does not mean they are the best. Check online bios, FAQs and hiring pages to get a feel for what experience and qualifications the telehealth service considers when bringing physicians and nurse practitioners into its group. Look for:
- Years of practical experience
- Completed background checks
- Training on virtual consultation and protocols
Diagnosis and testing procedures.
In cases where you may need more specialized tests, check the procedures. You may need to visit a local lab or purchase or rent specialized equipment. In some cases, especially when looking for a specialist, your local primary care physician may conduct the tests.
When you meet with your new doctor, ask questions and bring up concerns, just as you would with a regular doctor. In addition to making sure you are clear on matters concerning your health, it gives you the chance to see if this is a doctor you might like to "visit" for routine matters in the future.
Other Questions About Telemedicine Services
How can the doctor diagnose me without a physical examination?
In many cases, a description of the symptoms and your medical history is enough to diagnose common ailments. With video technology, you can send photos or video to the doctor – such as if he or she wants to see a rash. If they think the issue needs a physical examination, they will recommend you see your doctor or go to the emergency room.
Can I use the same telemedicine company when I'm traveling stateside?
Yes! If you have telemedicine services through your insurance company or health care provider, you will need to check the rules. Otherwise, if the telemedicine service can serve the state you are visiting, then you can receive care through it. Some services provide international care; find a service before you go abroad. HealthTap, which is on our list, provides worldwide health care.
Are there budget telemedicine services available or budget versions of the services?
Aside from SecondOpinions.com, the services charge a flat rate per visit unless they allow individual doctors to set their own prices. The prices are usually lower than a standard doctor visit, though not always less than a co-pay, and definitely less than an emergency room visit.
Why You Should Use Telehealth Services
Telehealth and telemedicine services are still in their infancy, and many people are reluctant to give up their visit to the doctor's office. However, unless you have an emergency or need lab work done, there really is no reason to avoid a virtual doctor appointment. All you need is a smartphone or a computer with a camera. Even if you don’t have insurance, visits are comparable in price to most insurance copays.
Here are some great reasons to jump on the telemedicine bandwagon:
- Limits Spread of Disease: Doctors' offices and hospitals are some of the most germ-filled places you can visit. By consulting with a doctor online, you both avoid and limit the spread of infectious illnesses like the flu.
- Shorter Wait Times: Most telemedicine appointments have no wait times. With most services, you can see a list of the doctors who are available for an immediate appointment.
- More Choices: Telemedicine services provide a list of doctors with their specialties and bios, allowing you to choose one based on your preferences. However, since the doctors meet with you remotely, the services can have more providers under their purview. This means you have greater choice.
- Provides Care in Rural Areas: If you live in a rural area, you might have to travel great distances for a simple doctor visit. As such, you may avoid going to the doctor until it’s too late. With telemedicine, you just need a reliable internet or cellular connection.
- Private and Secure: Telemedicine services are subject to the same privacy laws as doctors' offices. This means your patient information is protected no differently than it is at your local doctor’s office. In addition, you can do the appointment within the privacy of your own home. Only you, the doctor and the telehealth service know you’ve even consulted with a physician.
- Get Prescriptions Refilled Quickly: Telemedicine doctors can prescribe medications and refill prescriptions, sending the prescription to your preferred pharmacy. If you just need a prescription renewed, there’s no reason to spend an hour or more a doctor’s office waiting for a five-minute appointment.