Telehealth services are increasingly being offered throughout the United States. These services are working to provide improved health care for all Americans. Video health care, or telehealth measures, give people immediate access to medical professionals who can effectively diagnose and treat injuries and illnesses. A growing number of drugstore clinics have also gotten into the telehealth game recently, driving the telemedicine trend even further.
CVS Health recently announced that they will be introducing internet access for their MinuteClinic treatment facilities in many states. Although these clinics in CVS drugstore locations can be more convenient than going to a doctor’s office, they can still have wait times of several hours during peak times. So, CVS has found a solution. They’ll also be offering the ability for patients to gain access to medical professionals (like nurse practitioners and physician assistants) 24/7 from their mobile devices. All they’ll have to do is log on through the CVS Pharmacy app (available for both iPhone and Android users) to get treated.
Each patient has to complete a health questionnaire indicating their medical history and current issue; then they’re matched to a board-certified health care provider that’s licensed in their state. The provider goes over the questionnaire and conducts a video-enabled visit to assess the patient’s condition and come up with an appropriate treatment plan. Providers can even prescribe medications through this service (and they don’t have to be filled at CVS pharmacies). They can also make referrals if they determine that an in-person doctor’s visit would be better for that particular case. These video visits typically last about 15 minutes. That means it’s a quick and easy doctor’s visit conducted right from your phone, without you ever having to leave the house!
There are tons of benefits to interacting with a medical professional in a MinuteClinic or straight through the app – the main one being that patients can now get care whenever and wherever they need it. When they’re seen by a doctor doesn’t depend on how many other patients need to be treated, so they’re able to get immediate care. Patients who live in rural or remote areas can also have more access to treatment without having to worry about transportation to a facility. Increased access means there’s a more even distribution of care for people throughout the country.
Another great benefit is that these clinics and video chats are much cheaper than an in-person doctor’s office or emergency room visit. In fact, using the MinuteClinic online service costs just $59 with a credit or debit card. Some reports say that an average ER visit typically costs around $2,000, which represents a huge amount of savings. Currently, insurance isn’t taken by CVS for telehealth visits, but the company is working on getting insurance coverage in the future. This service can also be extremely helpful for those individuals without health insurance, since everything can be paid for out-of-pocket. Plus, with a set flat rate, patients can’t be nickel and dimed with added costs. This, in turn, will help make health care more affordable and accessible for people at any income level.
There aren’t many restrictions on who can use the telehealth services, either. As long as the patient is two years old and up, they can use these telehealth options for a variety of minor injuries and illnesses including:
- Seasonal allergies
- Colds and coughs
- Sinus infections
- Sore throats
- Upset stomachs
- Women’s services (like UTIs)
- Minor injuries
Since patients can be treated for these types of conditions (among others), it means that there will be reduced wait times in emergency rooms and urgent care clinics. Individuals with non-life-threatening issues can be treated with video visits, so patients with more serious problems will be able to see a doctor more quickly. In fact, the American Medical Association and Wellness Council of America states that more than 75% of doctor, urgent care, and emergency room visits can be handled through a video chat.
Other drugstore chains are also getting into the telemedicine race. Rite Aid has begun to work with telehealth service provider, InTouch Health, to add telehealth kiosks to their pharmacies. It’s likely an increasing number of stores will continue to implement these services to help better serve their customers. And it seems that many people are more than happy with the care they’re getting through these telehealth options. A CVS Health study noted that more than 95 percent of patients who used the video chats were highly satisfied with the quality of care they received. The same study indicated that 95% of patients were satisfied with the convenience and overall experience of the telehealth option, making it a no-brainer for choosing it in the future.
As telemedicine becomes more mainstream as time goes by, it’s likely more people in the U.S. will have access to quality health care. Patients won’t be limited by their location or whether there are certain medical professionals in their area. Treatment options will be more affordable, because providers won’t be able to charge added fees for office visits or expensive emergency room care. Overall, drugstore clinics and telehealth services like CVS’ MinuteClinic will help to improve both access to and the cost of health care for the whole country.