Over the past few years, the use of telehealth services has grown exponentially. The ease of technology has given the average patient access to telehealth services without much difficulty.
Additionally, the Covid-19 pandemic ignited new approaches and innovations in healthcare, and also launched a new wave in healthcare and medicine altogether.
In this article, I cover all the factors that affect the cost of telehealth and some easy ways to help you save money.
What Is Telehealth?
Telehealth is the use of technology to provide healthcare for patients from a distance. It can be done in a variety of ways, but most commonly it’s either through a video chat or a phone call.
The patient can go into a secure program and have their vitals checked by the remote physician, who will then be able to work with them on any health concerns they may be having.
Many studies have been done on telehealth and the kind of effect it has on patients’ health.
The majority of them say that using this technology to communicate with your doctor can help give patients better access to doctors, decrease their medical costs in the long term, increase patient satisfaction, and even improve job performance for those working at home.
Telehealth services can be offered as a bundled service as Medicare. However, the three distinct types of telemedicine services are synchronous, asynchronous, and remote monitoring:
- Synchronous: This form of telehealth is where a doctor and patient can communicate live through video conferencing or phone. Another type of a live (or synchronous) telemedicine visit is a Facilitated Virtual Visit (FVV). In this case, the patient is located at an accessible site (like a clinic) where the diagnostic equipment is available and the medical provider is at a distant site.
- Asynchronous: This way of telehealth, referred to as the “store-and-forward” technique, is when the doctor and patient communicate back and forth via email, fax, or over the phone. A patient or physician collects a medical history, images, and pathology reports, and then sends them to a specialist physician for diagnostic and treatment expertise.
- Remote monitoring: A device like a heart monitor allows information to be transferred from the patient directly to their doctor without actually needing to meet with them in person. It allows for a continuous evaluation of a patient’s clinical status, whether through direct video monitoring of the patient or via a review of tests and images collected remotely.
How Much Does Telehealth Cost?
The cost of telehealth depends on whether or not you have insurance, as well as the provider you are using.
A telehealth consultation with a doctor is typically less expensive than in-person visits or calls. The average cost of a telehealth visit for acute respiratory infection (such as a sinus infection, laryngitis, or bronchitis) was $79 compared to $146 for an in-person visit.
When you consider the time and gas you save driving to a doctor’s office, the cost of telehealth may be well worth the service. However, some low-cost telehealth providers charge more for prescription refills.
Most health plans will cover telehealth services, depending on your benefits. Some plans cover telehealth visits if they’re held on pre-approved video platforms.
Others cover telehealth with third-party providers.
Medicare and Medicaid have expanded their telehealth and telemedicine coverage. Medicare will pay for office, hospital, and other visits with a wide range of providers, such as doctors, nurse practitioners, and licensed social workers.
|Provider||Out of Pocket Cost of Services|
|K Health||Urgent care: $39 per visit, $49 per month|
Mental health: $49 per month
Primary care: $49 per month
|Amwell||Psychiatry: $279 the first visit, $109 thereafter|
Urgent care: $79
|Dr+ on Demand||General: $75|
Therapy: Starting at $129
Psychiatry: $399, first visit
Psychiatry: $229 first visit, $99 thereafter
Teen therapy: $85
Urgent care: $67
Mental health: $99
It is always a safe bet to connect with your insurance provider to learn more about your out-of-pocket costs.
Factors That Affect the Cost of Telehealth
It is important to remember that the overall cost of telehealth will depend on several factors, such as the condition, your insurance, and the provider. The following may play a factor in cost as well:
- Reputation and licensure: The more sought-after a doctor is, the more they will charge. The level of licensure also plays a role in telehealth costs. Doctors who are board-certified tend to charge more for telehealth services than those without this certification. Telehealth providers with federal certifications, such as those provided by the United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), typically cost higher. Some states do not recognize HHS certification, so there could be no reimbursements for eligible professionals meeting HIPAA standards and practicing in these states.
- Where you live: The cost of seeing a doctor depends on where you live as well as how far you must travel to see them. Telehealth services are more expensive in rural areas with fewer providers because doctors have to travel longer distances to see patients.
- Your condition: Telehealth visits cost less for minor illnesses and conditions, such as sinus infections, bronchitis, or laryngitis, because the doctor does not have to perform any tests or physical examinations. If you need additional tests or physician-performed procedures, your costs will increase.
- Availability: If the provider you want to see is not available through your insurance, then you will have to pay out of pocket for telehealth services. This may be an issue if you want to speak with a provider who is not available in your area or who is not certified.
- Platform: Telehealth providers that offer services through state-of-the-art platforms often cost more than those using older setups. More expensive platforms, such as the one offered by American Well, provide better video and sound quality and make it easier for patients to communicate quickly and effectively with their doctor online. On the other hand, most telecommunication companies and patient portals charge virtually no fees for HIPAA-compliant video consultations; however, the lack of consistency among these options makes it challenging for doctors to readily find compatible platforms on which they can practice.
How to Save on Telehealth Visits
The benefit of telehealth is that it’s more convenient for both patients and providers, but on the other hand, it does cost money. Here are some ways to cut down on the price tag of your next telehealth visit:
- Shop around: Different insurers may cover different types of telemedicine visits at different rates, so you’ll want to compare policies across providers before signing up for a specific plan. Make sure you know what kind of virtual appointment your insurer will reimburse before scheduling.
- Ask for discounts: Request information on any discounts available through your insurer when calling to schedule. Many providers offer substantial reductions when insured patients are looking into telemedicine portals and apps they’ve partnered with.
- Keep track of costs: Take note of how much time it takes for your doctor to respond via telemedicine versus traditional means so that if the provider offers discounts for using these modes, you know which option truly saves you money. More patients are turning to technology-based healthcare options because they offer convenience and speed. However, you should research the best way to save money on telehealth visits before scheduling a session with your physician.
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K Health articles are all written and reviewed by MDs, PhDs, NPs, or PharmDs and are for informational purposes only. This information does not constitute and should not be relied on for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment.
K Health has strict sourcing guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We avoid using tertiary references.
ASPE Report: Use of Telehealth in 2020 .
Health Affairs Study: Direct-To-Consumer Telehealth.
Medicare Telemedicine Health Care Provider Fact Sheet.
The Economics of a Telehealth Visit: A Time-Based Study at Penn Medicine.
Telemedicine Market Trends and Statistics for 2022.
Sampling of the Telehealth Visit Cost for Patients with No Health Insurance.