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It can be difficult to make time to see a doctor at the best of times. Now, with online video platforms like Teladoc and MDLIVE, you can talk with a doctor without leaving your home.

For many people with busy schedules, in-person doctor’s appointments can be difficult to keep.

Virtual doctor’s appointments via telemedicine platforms can help. You can discuss medical issues with a doctor, receive treatment for many common ailments, and more from the comfort of your home. These services can help make medical care more accessible.

In many cases, telemedicine platforms also offer lower pricing for services and can be cost-effective for people without insurance or people with insurance that does not cover certain costs.

Read on to learn about different types of telemedicine platforms and what kind of services they offer.

Telemedicine doesn’t replace in-person doctor’s appointments

Healthcare professionals via telemedicine platforms can’t take blood or urine samples, listen to your heart, take blood pressure readings, or conduct other important medical tests typically done in-person.

While telemedicine can be a convenient, useful tool, you’ll still want to see a doctor in person for these tests.

Don’t use telemedicine if experiencing a medical emergency. Go to the nearest emergency room or call 911 or your local emergency services.

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Each of the platforms on our list provide prescription services for a variety of treatments. Prices are accurate at the time of publish.

CompanyInsurance coveragePrice per visitMental health services
Sesame Caretnovaries by healthcare professionalyes
MDLIVEtyesurgent care starts from $82 or less, depending on insuranceyes
Teladoctyesgeneral medical visits can be $0 or $75 without insuranceyes
Amwelltyesvaries (urgent care visits start at $69 before insurance)yes
HealthTaptyes$15 per month for a year with membership; starting at $44 without insuranceyes
PlushCaretyeswith insurance, pay an estimated cost; without insurance, $129 for co-pay and $99 for repeat visitsyes
Doctor on Demandtyesfrom $79yes
LiveHealth Onlineyesfrom $55yes

We chose the following telemedicine options based on:

  • Ratings: We carefully considered customer reviews to find out what it’s really like to use these telemedicine companies.
  • Types of services offered: We looked for companies that can help with a variety of medical issues, and many also offer lab testing and mental health services.
  • Pricing: We chose companies that offer different payment options to suit a variety of budgets.
  • Accessibility: We considered how services and results are delivered — via phone call, video, apps, and more — and whether you’ll have access to 24/7 care.
  • Vetting: The companies on our list have been vetted to ensure that they align with Healthline’s brand integrity standards and approach to well-being. You can read more about our vetting process.

Telemedicine allows people to get healthcare services digitally using a computer or smartphone app. Many services offer a choice of audio and video call, email, and chat communications.

Telemedicine allows people to access physicians for certain purposes, such as refilling a prescription or sharing preliminary information, checking symptoms, or bringing up concerns about a health issue that does not require a physical examination.

Telemedicine should not be used in place of an in-person doctor visit. Instead, services can be used to:

  • assess when an in-person visit is necessary
  • prescribe and refill certain medications
  • treat minor medical conditions
  • provide mental health services

Attending an appointment virtually, either at your home or office, can make access to health care easier for people with hectic work and family schedules.

Plus, it’s a great option for people who may not otherwise have access to certain physicians or who cannot afford the price of standard medical visits. Many telemedicine services accept insurance plans from major providers, but one benefit of telemedicine is that most services are made to be cost-effective for people who do not have insurance.

Additionally, people who are immunocompromised or who have underlying health conditions could be at greater risk when in a doctor’s office. Physical barriers to access that may exist for people with disabilities are also eliminated with telemedicine.

That said, telemedicine is not accessible to people without computer or smartphone access or a reliable internet connection. While telemedicine makes appointments easier and more mobile, be careful not to take your appointment in public places, as privacy could be an issue.

Telemedicine vs. telehealth: Are they the same?

Both telemedicine and telehealth refer to services offered via phone or video. However, there is a difference between the two.

Telemedicine specifically refers to digital clinical healthcare services, where you connect with a licensed healthcare professional or team for care.

Telehealth is broader and includes nonclinical health services. Telehealth can include services such as training for healthcare professionals and medical education, as well as other nonclinical services and information.

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The best telemedicine service for you can vary based on your needs, price point, and level of urgency.

With so many options to choose from, you might not know where to begin. Pinpoint what features of a telemedicine service are most important to you, then focus on the services that offer these.

Some telehealth services offer a lot of choice in healthcare professionals and help you find the doctor who is best for you. Others focus on affordability or quick access to a care professional.

If you have a specific health condition or communication style preference, look into telemedicine companies that have experience with similar ailments or work the way you want.

Also, consider whether you’ll need labwork or prescriptions, and make sure the company or healthcare professional you’re considering can arrange for those.

Lastly, it’s important to consider your preferred payment method. You might need a company that can provide documentation for your health insurance reimbursement, or maybe you prefer to pay by debit. Find out in advance if the company you choose can accommodate different payment options.

If you’re looking to save money on healthcare expenses or you do not have health insurance, low-cost and free health services are available.

For example, the Health Resources and Services Administration’s Find a Health Center offers a directory of health clinics that operate on a sliding scale. If you do not have insurance or are unable to pay, you can still get care.

If you’re looking for a pregnancy test, birth control, or services related to sexual health, Planned Parenthood offers many discounted and free services.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration offers a confidential, free service for anyone needing assistance regarding substance and mental health concerns. Some of the telehealth services mentioned above can be free with insurance, such as Teladoc and LiveHealth Online.

Teladoc Health is the largest telemedicine service with $1.09 billion in revenue and more than 1,800 employees.

Aside from Teladoc Health, the key leaders in telemedicine are Amwell, MDLive, and Doctor on Demand.

While telemedicine and telehealth both describe receiving services by phone or video, there is a difference between the two. Telemedicine describes when you connect with a licensed healthcare professional or team for care, and telehealth is a broader term that includes clinical and nonclinical services, such as education for healthcare professionals.

Telemedicine healthcare professionals cannot take blood or urine samples or blood pressure readings. They also can’t do a hands-on physical exam, which includes listening to the heart and lungs, examining the abdomen, and more. These services still must be done at a lab or an in-person doctor’s appointment.

Telemedicine makes it easier than ever to get medical treatment and information. It can also be a more affordable alternative for people without insurance.