Last Updated on March 27, 2020
Feeling under the weather? Want to check in with a doctor, but don’t have the time to drive to the office? Fortunately, there are new answers. Telemedicine apps are making it possible to speak with a doctor from your smartphone, revolutionizing the way people get care.
What is Telemedicine?
Telemedicine is actually a simple idea: Most people already have a smartphone or a personal computer, why not use it to speak with a doctor online? The benefits have been huge, giving people access to quick and convenient medical care for a wide range of health issues that don’t need to be seen in person.
Telemedicine has also helped with a looming doctor shortage by making it easier for doctors to see more patients, more quickly—reducing wait times. And it has made care more affordable, and made it possible to see specialists if you live in a remote area. The list goes on and on.
Telemedicine vs Telehealth—What’s the Difference?
Telemedicine essentially fits within telehealth, referring to actual, remote caregiving. Telehealth includes this, but also includes medical training, administration, and any aspect of the health system that can be done via telecommunications. So, in terms of apps that provide medical care, both terms are acceptable.
The question is, what is the best way to access this care? Below, we list five of the best and most popular telemedicine apps on the market. Each will help you get the medical advice you need, and each has its own strengths. In many cases, these apps may even be covered by your health insurance plan. They are listed in no particular order, the choice is up to you!
As of 2018, Amwell was the most downloaded telemedicine app available through Google Play and the App Store. It features 24/7 access to doctors without needing an appointment. Prescriptions can be given online and sent to your pharmacy.
Many insurance plans and employers cover Amwell’s services, and it is available in all 50 states. The app’s creator, American Well, also builds the technology underpinning many smaller-scale health apps. Amwell is a solid all-around choice for a variety of needs—from urgent care to therapy, and even breastfeeding support.
Doctor on Demand is also among the most downloaded telemedicine apps, and has one of the highest customer satisfaction ratings. This app is useful for most problems that are not an emergency. These include acute issues like colds and flus, allergies, and rashes, as well as preventative and chronic care.
Behavioral health services are robust, with support for everything from anxiety and trauma recovery, to relationship issues. Registration is simple, and the process has gotten positive reviews. If you are new to telemedicine, this can be a good starting point.
Teladoc also offers round-the-clock access to board-certified doctors via phone, its mobile app, or the web any day of the week. Doctors on the app have an average of 20 years experience. Categories of care include urgent care, therapy, dermatology, and sexual health. The app can even help with quitting smoking.
Perhaps the most unique feature of Teladoc is its Global Care service. This gives you access to doctors who can speak your language anywhere in the world, and helps you navigate the local healthcare system when you’re traveling abroad. This can be especially useful for employers who want to provide benefits for workers living outside of the country.
HealthTap also provides 24/7 access to doctors. What makes this app unique is its huge database of FAQs, medical studies, and use of artificial intelligence. By entering a question, you can get answers from a network of over 140,000 doctors, within 147 different specialties. An AI doctor can help you browse for answers that fit your condition, and analyze your records to determine the best course of action. You can even use the app to get custom health reminders.
The baseline service is free, with online video consultation available as part of the premium package. HealthTap can be a good option if you want access to more reliable health information, and want to streamline your care as much as possible.
The MDLIVE app is another popular option that provides access to doctors and medical care remotely. This app covers issues ranging from minor illnesses, to mental health counseling and dermatology. Both psychiatry and therapy are available at different price points, making things like grief counseling more accessible.
MDLIVE has also introduced an artificial intelligence assistant to help streamline the process. By collecting more information up front, doctors can spend more time connecting with a patient’s personal needs, and users can get quicker answers to simpler questions. The app can even provide reminders to help patients stick to their care regimens.
Telemedicine to Treat Addiction: Ria Health
On top of its usefulness for solving more general health problems, telemedicine is also changing how we treat addiction. Ria Health’s app is a good example of how this technology can be specialized to support people struggling with alcohol misuse.
Telemedicine and Medication-Assisted Treatment
Breakthroughs over the past few decades have expanded the tools we have for treating addiction. This includes the use of medication to reduce alcohol cravings. And one of the advantages of telemedicine is that it can make it easier to prescribe these medications, and to monitor people’s reactions to them.
The use of telemedicine while providing medication assisted treatment means that patients can check in with doctors and coaches on a regular basis. Treatment can be continuously adjusted, so that patients get the best results possible. Telemedicine eases communication, so it can actually make evidence-based, outpatient rehab more effective.
Alcohol Abuse and Telemedicine
Beyond medication, telemedicine can have a big impact on addiction treatment and standard of care. Telemedicine apps can let patients speak with recovery coaches on a regular basis, and access online support groups. Treatment is portable, and therefore less disruptive to daily life, increasing retention rates. It’s also easier to stick with long-term, making a lasting recovery more likely.
Finally, telemedicine lets programs integrate app-based tools seamlessly. For example, Ria’s program uses a Bluetooth breathalyzer to let members record their Blood Alcohol Content every day. We can turn that data into a chart, giving people an accurate idea of their progress. We can also use that information to adjust care. In other words, telemedicine not only makes addiction treatment easier to access, it can improve it overall.
In summary, members of Ria’s program get access to doctors and addiction coaches, prescription medications, and 24/7 support, all through a telemedicine app on their smartphone. Online support group meetings and digital progress-tracking tools round out the program. Just like with general healthcare, there is a pressing need for greater access to treatment for addiction, and telemedicine apps like Ria’s are providing a solution.