Save and Invest

Can't see your doctor in person? Take advantage of your telemedicine options


CNBC Make It is posting a new financial task to tackle each day for a month. These are all meant to be simple, time-sensitive activities to take your mind off of the news for a moment and, hopefully, put you on sturdier financial footing. This is day 29 of 30.

Taking care of your physical and mental health shouldn't stop being a priority just because you can't easily go to a doctor's office right now.

Today, familiarize yourself with the telemedicine options available to you. You can typically use telemedicine for anything from diagnosing a physical ailment like strep throat to speaking to a mental health care professional to receiving a birth control prescription. Telemedicine shouldn't be used for situations where immediate care is necessary, such as a heart attack or broken bone.

These appointments are just like standard, in-person appointments, except that you are speaking to your doctor or other medical professional via video conference from your home. Depending on your conversation, you can receive a diagnosis, learn about different treatment options and get prescriptions.

Right now, virtual visits are preferable to a potentially dangerous in-person visit or no visit at all. And on a per-visit basis, they also tend to be more cost-effective than in-person visits. On average, a telehealth visit costs about $79, while an office visit's average cost is $146, a 2017 study from Health Affairs found. That said, the study also found that the availability of telemedicine encourages people to seek care for more minor injuries or illnesses than they would otherwise, which could increase costs overall.

Still, with many medical facilities closed and few people keen to spend time in a doctor's office right now, telemedicine can fill the gap for some of your appointments while the coronavirus shutdowns continue. To find your options, log in to your health care provider's website or app and look for a telemedicine portal. It should be displayed on the main site page, or you can navigate to it from the site's menu. 

Once you find the portal, follow the prompts to log in to it, which will likely include providing your insurance information, and schedule appointments for the services you need.

You can also call and ask your primary care doctor, if you have one, about any telemedicine systems they have set up. If you are looking specifically for a mental health professional, here are some virtual options.

Many insurers are encouraging the use of telemedicine appointments right now: Aetna and Blue Cross Blue Shield are currently waiving copays for telemedicine services for some policy holders (though you should always read the fine print on any directive from your insurance company) and the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) will reimburse Medicare patients for the services. 

Virtual urgent care apps, like Doctor on DemandMDLive or PlushCare, allow you to access a doctor 24 hours a day if you don't have a primary care doctor. If you've lost your job, some telemedecine companies are offering free or inexpensive services to those affected by Covid-19. 

Your doctor's visit will look a little different than you're used to, but you can still get the help, prescriptions and care that you need.

Don't miss the last five days: 

Check out: The best credit cards of 2020 could earn you over $1,000 in 5 years

How a 31-year-old making $118,000 in Philadelphia spends his money
How a 31-year-old making $118,000 in Philadelphia spends his money