MASTERCLASSING

Telemedicine comes of age during the pandemic

Devin Partida

Devin Partida looks at six telehealth apps that have come to the fore during the COVID-19 pandemic.

It’s challenging to find positives that came out of the COVID-19 pandemic. 2020 was a tumultuous year for everyone, especially the health care community. Medical frontline workers stepped up to the plate to fight the spread of the virus and provide treatment to patients.

But perhaps one positive thing to come out of the pandemic is the widespread use of telehealth apps and websites to meet virtually with their doctors. In addition, the emergence of telemedicine has offered patients alternatives to visiting a health care facility to receive proper care.

With the spreading capability of COVID-19, it’s no surprise that telemedicine became more prevalent. When doctors’ offices closed, doctors and their practices needed to find alternative care options. As a result, many offices had to receive their telehealth accreditation to offer appointments to their patients.

The CDC reports that there was a sharp increase in telehealth encounters in March 2020. So, as COVID-19 changed many aspects of our lives, telemedicine as a practice will likely be here for the long run.

Here are six telehealth apps that patients can benefit from as they manage their health moving forward.

1. MDLive
The MDLive platform builds on the company’s existing behavioral health, urgent care and dermatology services the company is already known for. The company served more than 36 million active members as of January 2020. Its primary goal is to help existing platforms and unburden existing health care infrastructure by offering a predictive and proactive approach to care rather than a reactive one.

Signing up for MDLive services takes only 15 minutes. From there, patients can search through a network of board-certified doctors to choose the proper care for their health needs. During a visit, doctors can provide diagnoses and prescribe medication to retrieve from your local pharmacy. Access via mobile app is also available for MDLive patients.

2. Amwell
Amwell offers 24/7 doctor visits, and all of them can be done from virtually anywhere on a phone, laptop, or tablet. Prescriptions can be sent electronically to a patient’s pharmacy of choice, and there’s no need to wait for an appointment. Aside from physical health problems, it’s also possible to visit licensed therapists and psychiatrists.

One of the biggest challenges in health care is the influx of patients to emergency rooms and practices who don’t need to be there. Resolving minor conditions that are nonlife-threatening, nonurgent or easy to treat at home, without driving to a doctor’s office, is one of the key applications of telehealth Amwell hopes to capitalize on.

3. Teladoc
The multinational Teladoc Health uses telemedicine, data analytics and artificial intelligence to connect patients with physicians and render expert medical opinions. To meet the growing demand for its services, Teladoc acquired several companies between 2002 and 2018, including BetterHelp and Advance Medical.

Medical experts are only a few taps away from patients seeking medical care. It’s simple to sign up for a Teladoc account — it only takes a few minutes to chat with a virtual assistant beforehand. During signup, it’s also possible for patients to enter their medical history to give doctors further insight into their current conditions. This allows for safer care as we emerge from the pandemic.

4. Doctor on Demand
Doctor on Demand provides anywhere, anytime connectivity with the medical community through mobile and desktop computers. It’s also a covered benefit for 98 million Americans. With urgent and chronic care available, as well as behavioral and preventive health assistance, it’s a fully realized telehealth platform.

As the name suggest, it’s easy to find a doctor to consult with over your medical needs. Doctor on Demand has a mission of achieving its trademarked Total Virtual Care, where patients can access doctors in a pinch. Doctors on Demand have licensed medical professionals that have an average of over 15 years of experience.

5. BetterHelp
The massive changes people faced during the pandemic caused some people to seek therapy and alternative mental health treatments. As a result, therapists transitioned from the office to online video conferencing. BetterHelp offers mental health treatment services for individuals, couples, and teens. They enlist licensed counselors for their operation and match their patients accordingly. It’s 100 per cent online, and memberships range from £40 to £70 per week, billed 4-weekly.

BetterHelp has a lot to offer. With tens of thousands of vetted counselors available to talk and more than 150m messages sent through its platform since launch, it’s a mature offering that’s already helped thousands of people achieve their best lives and work through whatever’s holding them back.

6. Talkspace
Another telehealth app that centralizes around mental health counseling is Talkspace, with over 1m users worldwide. They accept most major insurance and offer services for many age groups. Talkspace also offers a mental health checkup for patients curious about their state of mind and whether therapy is a suitable option for them.

Onboarding at Talkspace is a welcoming and accessible experience. A brief assessment offers a chance for patients to give insight into their preferences and frame of mind, and the resulting list of recommended therapists provides both choice and privacy.

Regardless of the reason for a doctor’s visit, patients must have access to proper medical care. But, as the pandemic shifted many priorities in health care, it also shone a light on the communities that struggled to find affordable, expert-level doctor appointments.

The future of telehealth 
Telehealthcare options will likely be here to stay in the upcoming years. The benefits certainly outweigh the drawbacks – more access to medical professionals, convenient scheduling capabilities, and prescriptions are only some of the positives. As more patients rely on digital services to receive medical care, doctors need to digitize their practice and transition to offering online appointments.