What is a phone doctor and can they write a prescription?
Most people will use at least one prescription drug in their lifetime and, in fact, many people take multiple prescription medications at any given time. Unfortunately, the cost of these medications is on the rise at an alarming rate – much higher than wage increases for most Americans, making it hard to keep up financially. The United States has the highest cost of prescription drugs in the world. In 2013, the per capita spending on prescription drugs was $858 – a number that is more than double the average cost per capita in 19 other industrialized nations.
To make matters worse, the process of obtaining a prescription and attending follow-up appointments is often cumbersome and time-consuming, leading many to put off seeing a doctor longer than they should. With a growing population and seemingly fewer and fewer primary care physicians, it can be difficult to get a timely appointment with your doctor even when you’re really sick. Add to that the time spent driving to the office, sitting in the waiting and exam rooms, and the drive back home, and you have used up an all too large portion of your day.
The use of technology and a digital lifestyle are are at an all-time high, and there is no better convenience than that of telehealth, also known as telemedicine, which is the ability connect remotely via video conference, phone call, email, or even text message with a health professional.
This is not to be confused with a virtual symptom checker, which allows you to enter a list of the symptoms you’re experiencing and provides you with a long list of everything that may be (but likely is not) wrong with you. A telemedicine interaction is a one-on-one, private, and confidential appointment with a real practicing physician.
Indeed, telehealth platforms have come so far that you can now see a doctor face-to-face remotely right on your phone. These “phone doctors” are fully-trained physicians who are able to discuss your medical history and current symptoms, examine you, and write you a prescription, as needed, wherever you may be. As with picking any doctor, you’ll want to read reviews and make sure that you’re picking a remote doctor who is a good fit for your personal needs.
Sound too good to be true? There are a few steps you’ll want to take first before you’ll be able to work with a phone doctor, but after that, it should be smooth sailing.
How is Phone Doctor Appointment Different from a Traditional Office Visit?
Those who have never experienced a doctor’s appointment over the phone may wonder how it differs from a traditional doctor’s appointment. When it comes right down to it, the main difference is that there is greater convenience when seeing a phone doctor than seeing one in person. Of course, if you are bleeding or have a broken bone, you’ll want to see a doctor in person since a phone doctor obviously won’t be able to physically touch you.
As with any time that you see a doctor, you’ll first make an appointment, most of the time for the very same day. Depending on the website or app that you are using, this may involve filling out a form or creating an account. At the time of your appointment, you can expect a phone call or video chat (depending on your phone capabilities) with a doctor. The best part about a face-to-face chat with a doctor over the phone is that, in addition to them seeing you and assessing your physical state, you can see their face, which often makes things feel more legitimate and reassuring.
During your appointment, you can expect to explain your symptoms or ongoing issue, ask any questions you may have, and receive a diagnosis (if appropriate) from the doctor. If necessary, you may even receive a prescription which the phone doctor can send right to your pharmacy of choice. You can expect this phone consultation to take about 10 to 15 minutes just as it would in your regular doctor’s office. The best part is, there’s no drive in, no parking, and no waiting room to be had!
How to Get a Prescription From a Doctor you see over the Phone
If part of the reason you’re seeking an appointment with a phone doctor is because you may need a prescription medication, it’s a good idea to do your homework ahead of time to be sure that the doctor you’ll be seeing is able to write a prescription in your state. The doctor must be licensed in your state in order to be able to give you a prescription.
While the laws governing telehealth and phone doctors are constantly changing, some states still do not allow doctors to write a prescription after seeing a patient virtually. So, be sure to check the most up-to-date laws in your state.
It’s also important to note that some medications really require an in-person, physical examination before they are prescribed. What doctors are willing and able to prescribe over the phone will vary based on the state, the organization that they work for, and even personal preference. Some examples of medications which PlushCare doctors are unable to prescribe include:
Seroquel, Zyprexa, Risperdal and other antipsychotic medications
Adderall and Ritalin and other stimulants
Morphine, oxycodone, Vicodin and other narcotics
Xanax, Ambien, Ativan, Lunesta and other sedatives and sleep aids
While you may be disappointed if one of the medications listed was what you were hoping to obtain, the fact of the matter is that most telehealth doctors are able to prescribe and refill the most common medications used in the United States including antibiotics, allergy medication, and birth control right from the comfort and privacy of your own home.
Is Visiting a Doctor on Your Phone Right for You?
Before booking your first appointment with a doctor on your phone, make sure that it’s the right choice for you by asking yourself the following questions:
Do you have the right technology to see a doctor remotely? Many doctors will speak to you on the phone, so you would need to have some way to receive a phone call. However, if you’re hoping to see the doctor, you’ll need a smartphone, tablet, or computer with internet access. Some programs are also app-based, so you may need to download an app in order to get started.
Are you comfortable and confident with the answers you will receive from a doctor online? Rest assured that the doctor you’ll see on your screen is a real, licensed physician. They are just practicing medicine in an office that you won’t physically go to.
Do you have medical insurance? While you may be afraid to make an appointment if you don’t have insurance coverage, seeing a doctor on your phone may actually make things cheaper for you. You can get an estimate of your cost before the appointment and you will likely find that it is less than what it would cost you to see someone in person.
Will your insurance cover the appointment? A common concern when it comes to medical care is attending an appointment that you later find out was not covered by your insurance and getting stuck footing the bill. The good news is that you’ll only have to pay a copay as outlined by your insurance carrier and you can check exactly what that will be before your appointment. You may even find that you can get an additional discount through your insurance or your employer for using a telehealth provider.
Reasons to Book a Phone Doctor Appointment Today:
There are a number of reasons to book an appointment through a phone doctor app or website, the first and foremost of which is convenience. It couldn’t be more simple to book the actual appointment.
Then, there’s the fact that there’s no need to find childcare, drive anywhere, or even put pants on if you don’t want to. For those who live in a rural setting from which it is difficult to get to a doctor’s office, this can save hours of time not to mention gas costs and tolls.
There’s also the fact that doctor’s offices are usually only open during the work week. Taking time off from work to go see a doctor is a hardship for most people especially for a minor illness. That issue is eliminated when using a telehealth provider.
Lastly, and perhaps most importantly is the avoiding of waiting, both for the appointment date and in the waiting room. It may take days to get into see your primary care physician or even weeks to see a specialist. You can expect to wait hours in the emergency room and 45 minutes or more in urgent care. All of this is avoided with a phone doctor appointment. Of course, it’s still advised to go to the emergency room for a true medical emergency.
How to Go About Making an Appointment with a Virtual Doctor
You’ve decided that you’re ready to make a phone doctor appointment – great! If you’re not sure exactly what to do, don’t worry. The process of getting an appointment is just as easy as the appointment itself.