It’s safe to say that we’ve all had to make adjustments in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Some have had to adapt to a new daily routine, and some have had to deal with unexpected health crises.
And some have had to completely rework their budgets to account for unemployment and medical costs. Whatever type of adjustments you’ve had to make this year, there may be some new solutions that can help get you back on track.
One way to save money and stress during the pandemic is to take advantage of new telemedicine options offered by your health insurance company.
Telemedicine is the ability to diagnose and treat healthcare patients through the use of telecommunications technology, such as phone or video capabilities, oftentimes through your healthcare provider’s app. For many, telemedicine has become a primary line of communication with their doctors and specialists, making it essential for an economy impacted by COVID-19.
The best part? You can even save a little money…
Why you Should Take Advantage of Telemedicine During COVID-19
Telemedicine allows you to Safely See Your Doctor
By eliminating contact between yourself and your doctor, nurses, administrative staff, and other patients, you can lower your exposure to the coronavirus significantly.
Oftentimes, You Have 24/7 Access
Unlike an in-office doctor visit that you have to schedule ahead of time, many virtual options allow patients to access a doctor or medical professional around the clock. This can be helpful for a number of reasons, including if you’re concerned you may be showing symptoms of COVID-19.
For many, Telemedicine is Offered for Free
Quite a few insurance providers, such as Independence Blue Cross, are offering $0 telemedicine appointments and COVID-19 testing and treatment, so make sure you contact your provider to see if you could save even more.
Time is Money
Under normal circumstances, taking time to go into a doctor’s office can be quite expensive. Between travel time, time spent in the waiting room, and time needed to have a thorough exam, you may invest half your day in your appointment. Even more, if you plan to drop off or pick up any prescriptions. And for many, it requires taking time off work or using personal time.
With telehealth and virtual appointments, you’re able to meet with your doctor quickly online, from the comfort and safety of your own home. No more travel time or waiting room. And while virtual appointment wait times have been longer than usual due to the high demand, you’re able to continue working from home or accomplishing other tasks until your appointment begins.
Telemedicine not only saves you time and money, but it also saves employers a great deal of money. Since telehealth appointments are generally billed for less than in-office visits, insurance companies don’t have to pay healthcare providers as much for their services, and therefore, insurance companies can lower the cost of premiums for both employers and employees.
Save on All Types of Healthcare Offered Through Telemedicine
Traditional Medical Care
In most cases, you’re able to see your doctor or healthcare team virtually for your annual wellness exams, check-ups or any other regular appointments. While it may take some adjustment, technology has bridged many gaps between you and your doctor to ensure everyone is safe and socially distanced during the pandemic.
There are virtual assessments, questionnaires, and apps that allow your doctor to have plenty of information to assess your health and offer sound advice. And since your doctor’s office is able to save money on staff, utilities, and supplies during your visit, you will likely share those savings with a lower bill.
If you have an emergency in the middle of the night, your care options are often limited to emergency rooms or urgent care centers, which both tend to have high price tags (especially if you need an ambulance for transportation).
However, with 24/7 access to a doctor with telemedicine, you can save a great deal on emergency care, should you need it in a pinch. Companies like UPMC in Pittsburgh even offer “teletrauma” services to help assist with any major traumatic injuries.
Mental Health Care
In addition to your normal health and wellness visits, telemedicine is being utilized greatly in the mental and behavioral health fields during COVID-19. Virtual visits make sense for mental health services since your counselor or health specialist likely won’t need to do a physical exam.
Considering the increased stress surrounding COVID-19, insurance companies are including mental health services in their telemedicine offerings, where otherwise, it may not even be covered by your regular plan and would be an out-of-pocket expense.
Other Types of Care
Insurance companies are also offering coverage for health and wellness-related services, such as dermatology, weight management programs, diabetes management, sleep management, medical decision support, cardiac care management, and prenatal care.
Physical therapy, speech, and occupational therapy, and chronic disease management are also services that are starting to be offered virtually. If you have questions about receiving specific care virtually, talk to your healthcare provider about what is available.
Is Telemedicine Right for You?
While most people will be able to utilize virtual visits and telehealth benefits to save money during COVID-19 for the healthcare services listed above, there may be some circumstances that require in-person health services, such as dialysis or cancer treatment that must take place in a clinical setting.
If you are receiving ongoing clinical treatment, there may still be a way for you to take advantage of your telemedicine benefits in-between visits. Talk to your doctor about whether telehealth is right for your unique needs, or consider speaking to a health insurance agent in order to understand all of your options.
While COVID-19 has required a number of adjustments in the way we receive care and save money, technology and communication have made tremendous progress in the last year alone, making it possible to adjust to a “new normal” with minimal disruptions to our daily lives and routines.