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The pros and cons of virtual visits

See a doctor on your time

This article was last updated on Aug. 31, 2020. 

Gone are the days when doctors made house calls. However, today’s technology offers something similar. It’s called a virtual visit and it allows you to stay put while you visit a doctor face-to-face, via your smartphone, tablet or laptop.

Doctor On Demand® External Site, which is available to many Wellmark members, offers virtual visits with board-certified physicians for a number of minor ailments, from a run-of-the-mill cold or flu to headaches, skin conditions or bronchitis. Physicians can even prescribe medication, if needed.

More and more people are giving it a try. In the right circumstances, it can be just what the doctor ordered. Depending on your symptoms, however, it may be best to meet with your doctor in person.

How it worked for one member

Wellmark member Brian Gillette used Doctor On Demand when he was on a getaway with his family in Colorado. On the first day, he woke up with a red, itchy eye. Pinkeye had been making its way through the office where he worked, so he suspected that was the problem. Before his family even woke up, he hopped on his laptop to try Doctor On Demand.

“I didn’t have time to go to the urgent care center, and I sure didn’t want to miss out on vacation time with my family for something so minor,” says Gillette. “With Doctor On Demand, I was able to talk to a doctor in a matter of a few minutes. We picked up the prescription eye drops, and we were on our way.”

Pros of a virtual visit

  • Offers convenience. Seeing a doctor online is fast and convenient, and care is available on your time, when your doctor’s office is closed, when you're traveling, or you're too sick or busy to go in person.
  • Great for minor ailments. The service works best for minor, temporary, non-emergency conditions such as cold or flu, allergies, sore throat, diarrhea, vomiting, rashes, sprains or strains.
  • Eliminates drive time. Since there’s no need to travel, you’ll save time and inconvenience.
  • Easy to fit into a busy schedule. If you have a tight schedule or short lunch break, you can fit in an appointment.

Cons of a virtual visit

  • It doesn’t always suit the situation. Virtual visits work for a speedy evaluation of symptoms. But they may not be suitable for situations that require more in-depth care, such as severe burns, broken bones or ear infections.
  • Technology can be problematic. If your phone doesn’t have service, or your laptop can’t connect to Wi-Fi, you may be out of luck. In most cases, smartphones and tablets offer better connections than a laptop computer.
  • Your doctor won’t know your health history. You won’t see your personal doctor, so he or she will not know your personal health history, which could be challenging.

Wellmark members’ experiences with Doctor On Demand

  • The average wait time is 6.3 minutes
  • The average visit is less than 9 minutes
  • Approximate time it takes from start to finish is only 16 minutes
  • Doctor On Demand has an average rating of 4.9 out of 5 stars among Wellmark members

Do you have benefits for Doctor On Demand?

A virtual visit through Doctor On Demand is a benefit covered by many Wellmark plans, and most times, a virtual visit costs either the same or less than a visit to your primary care physician. Just be sure to check your coverage for details. Medicare supplement members do not have benefits for virtual visits. However, even if virtual visits aren't covered under your Wellmark health plan, accessing care online through a service like Doctor On Demand may still be more affordable than a trip to urgent care or the emergency room.

Some Wellmark plans cover Doctor On Demand visits for mental health. If you’re hesitant about getting help for mental health issues such as depression or anxiety, a virtual doctor visit might be a good place to start. Make sure you log in to myWellmark® Opens New Window to check your specific benefits before receiving care.

Doctor On Demand physicians do not prescribe Drug Enforcement Administration-controlled substances, and may elect not to treat conditions or prescribe other medications based on what is clinically appropriate.

For plans that include benefits for mental health treatment, Doctor On Demand benefits may include treatment for certain psychological conditions, emotional issues and chemical dependency. Services performed by Doctor On Demand psychologists are covered. For more information, call Wellmark at the number on your ID card.

Doctor On Demand by Included Health is a separate company providing an online telehealth solution for Wellmark members. Doctor On Demand® is a registered mark of Doctor On Demand, Inc.