While Republicans and Democrats are still debating the merits of ObamaCare on Capitol Hill as the nation is starting to sign up customers under the Affordable Care Act, a new proposition could make the cost of primary healthcare even more affordable. Thanks to wireless connectivity and video chats, smartphones could now provide easy access to a doctor for just $49 for each video call.
Thanks to American Well, patients can see a virtual, live doctor with each video call, who can then diagnosis and sometimes even prescribe medicine for their ailments. The service could help reduce costs for basic primary care, though any procedure that needs to be performed would need to be done in person by a doctor or medical professional.
The cost, according to a report on CNET, for these video chats is $49 for the first 10 minutes, and American Well can bill an additional $10 for an extra 3-5 minutes. The cost is far cheaper than a visit to the emergency room for patients without healthcare coverage and even those with health insurance can have these costs covered by their plan.
There are even greater benefits to smartphone medicine. Patients are more relaxed and comfortable as they are getting the treatment in-home. They don’t risk infecting others nor do they waste energy trying to get to the emergency room or a physical doctor’s office to get a diagnosis. But the greatest benefit is that patients, with the guidance of a doctor, could perform certain exams to assess illnesses, and become more involved and knowledgeable about their illnesses and health.
Still, telemedicine, and its known, is not a replacement for traditional medicine, but it does make the cost of healthcare more affordable and accessible. Patients who may worry about an infection may no longer need to worry about the cost of an ER visit or for labs nor do they have to worry about copays, deductibles, and payment schedules.
For people with more limited income, a flat fee for simple diagnosis could mean more peace of mind as a $49 bill is far easier to swallow than a $1000 ER visit. For hypochondriacs, it means no more misguided self-diagnosis from reading online health articles. For the rest of society, it could mean that emergency rooms can be freed up for more serious cases.