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Eat, Play, Sleep, Love

My First Experience with Telehealth – Curious About Yours

This has been a tough winter for our family. It seems like we get sick, get better, then get sick again a few weeks later. The last time I got sick I decided to use Intermountain Connect Care Healthcare app to meet with a doc. It was snowing outside and I was in bed with no intention of getting out of bed! Stephen reminded me that our insurance company had an app. The idea of not having to move and getting seen by a doctor was very appealing to me.

How the Connect Care App Works

1. Install the App

The first thing you do is install the app. It will ask for your health history and collect payment information. Once signed up I got a list of available health care representatives to connect with. You can choose who you’d like to see but be aware that they are not all doctors. Some are physician’s assistants (PAs) and in my experience the PAs are available more than doctors are.

Connect Care app telehealth

2. Connect with a Healthcare Professional Via Video Chat

The next step is to actually connect with someone – I got a PA. He looked over my information and then asked about my symptoms. The bad news is the connection was lost 3 times. Each time I had to start over with my health history. It did remember my credit card number but not the symptoms or other info. On the last try, we lost the connection right when the visit was almost finished. So I had to start again if I wanted a diagnosis and prescription. That was very frustrating. 

The visit was via video. There was a split screen with him on the top screen and me underneath at the bottom of the screen. The picture was clear and so was the audio. It was easy to communicate. The only problem is when you’re sick you hate how you look and you can’t avoid looking at yourself. Like my Facebook friend said, “And if they store the video, can I put a Snapchat filter on so I don’t look like walking death on it.” I know it’s a small matter but I did look like walking death and it wasn’t very flattering. In a doctor’s office you’re not confronted by your own image – it’s like looking in the mirror during the whole visit.

3. Discuss Symptoms and Get Diagnosis

After that I described my symptoms and the PA determined that I had a sinus infection. He called in my prescription at a pharmacy that I requested. There isn’t a written or emailed copy of the prescription or a discussion over brands. I really wanted to see my prescription and know what I was being prescribed. It’s tough to remember things when you’re sick. I guess one advantage of using an app is that another adult can be present and write things down for you or ask additional questions.

The entire visit from start to finish, with technical difficulties was probably 40 minutes. It cost $49 which they billed to my credit card (I wish I’d remembered to use my HSA card). Since it was the weekend (I always seem to get sick on the weekend) I would’ve had to go to Instacare and it would cost me around $150. So using ConnectCare was significantly less expensive.

I’m happy and I’ll use it again for sure. I do wish there was an option to automatically skip the intro after the first try, but since it never registered me as a patient it couldn’t. Hopefully next time it will be quicker to connect and stay connected. Too bad you can’t use your phone while you’re waiting.

Upside of Telehealth

  • You’re not exposed to other sick people in doctor’s waiting rooms. I wasn’t exposed to anyone and Stephen got my prescription so I never had to leave the house.
  • The wait time is significantly shorter.
  • Even with the wait times (there was only one health care provider available), it was way faster and cheaper than instacare.
  • People who otherwise wouldn’t see a doctor might be more open if they can see one by phone.
  • 24/7 access means you can see someone pretty much any time wherever you are.

Downside of Telehealth

  • Obviously there’s no way for the health care rep to take my weight, temperature or perform any exams. He can’t look at my throat or ears through the app.
  • No history is given in my account, not even that I saw anyone seems to be recorded. That would be really helpful for me and my kids. I sometimes need a health history. If my kids need it I assume it goes under my account. Then I want to access everyone’s info and actually be able to download a copy. Not sure if laws allow that or not.
  • The doctor has no prior history with you – although I have seen the same PA twice.
  • The app design makes it hard to identify and find on my phone. I have a lot of apps and the dark blue with a graphic that made no sense made it hard to remember and find the app again. I had to keep searching to find it on my phone.

There are some other downsides as well. For example, Connect Care and apps only work for certain types of health care issues. Apparently Connect Care doesn’t count towards IHC for some reason and so they cannot go off of what happened during an appointment.  So if you needed a follow up visit or to change a prescription you would have to go in to see someone in person. Also, if you get a PA they cannot prescribe the same medications that a doctor can. I really think they should warn you about these details BEFORE you connect with someone. Otherwise you could potentially pay for BOTH the app version and another appointment.

I have had severe back pain in the past and the only thing that helped were muscle relaxants. From what I understand they could only be prescribed by a doctor – so if I got a PA I do not believe he could’ve given them to me.

Connect Care Uses

On their website (but not on the app) Connect Care lists the type of conditions they treat through the app. This is helpful.

  • Stuffy and runny nose
  • Allergies
  • Sore throat
  • Eye infections
  • Ear ache
  • Cough
  • Painful urination
  • Lower back pain
  • Joint pain or strains
  • Minor skin problems

Other Telemed Apps 

I asked my friends on Facebook what telehealth apps they have used and liked. Here’s what they said.

  • FirstOpinion (only problem, I couldn’t find it on Android, so it may be an iPhone only service)
  • Doctor on Demand. “My husband refused to go to the doctor, so I thought he’d be more happy to talk to someone from home. We got out the tablet, connected and were able to speak to the doctor really easily and quickly with no connectivity issues.”
  • Mountain Star in Utah has an app.

One question I have is do they store the video from our calls? At the least it would be helpful to see the history of using the app and what happened during the visit – for easy reference.

My Overall Thoughts about Connect Care and Telehealth 

Overall, telemed fills a need in healthcare but to me they don’t clearly explain its limitations and risks. I will continue to use the app for simple concerns and for middle of the night type of emergencies. Still, if you did have to go into an emergency room would they charge you to tell you that? There are questions that come up that I’m not sure about which make me pause.

When I was pregnant it would’ve been helpful to have telehealth to talk to someone about my concerns without going in to see a doctor – which sometimes can take days or even weeks. Everyone says go into the doctor when something comes up, but every time you do it’s another bill to pay (it falls outside of the entire pregnancy care with regular doctor visits). We are self-insured and have high deductible insurance so it can add up. Again, they couldn’t monitor my contractions or take my blood pressure but for $49 it might be worth it to know if what I experienced was normal or something that needed more attention.

That was my experience and I’ve used Connect Care two times so far. I’d like to see what the cost and experience is like through another app. I have actually used one to see my dermatologist but it was clunky and I never got my prescription. It was a new service and they were still working out the kinks. Unless it improved dramatically I probably wouldn’t use it again.

 

Have you used telehealth? What did you think?



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