Healthcare has rapidly evolved over the years. Expectedly, the expansion in healthcare services has long been projected by industry experts. With the emergence of new trends in human diseases condition, healthcare services were expected to develop new ways of addressing the growing health concerns in the world, especially in the U.S. The right solution to providing the needed coverage was aided again by technology. Recently, there has been an unprecedented shift in the industrial affinity for advancement in Information Technology. Digital technology seems to have just the right leverage to expand any industry where it is introduced. In healthcare, the results were as predicted. It has been the impetus to drive healthcare costs, especially the costs of an online doctor significantly down.
Why link digital technology with healthcare services? The range of answers is not far-fetched. People were simply growing increasingly tired of the conventional methods of assessing medical care. The need to schedule a physical appointment session with a doctor, travel hundreds of miles, sometimes thousands, to see a doctor, and then wait in long queues for test results was becoming unbearable. People resorted to searching for answers online. From a broad perspective, this quest has not been entirely productive, as the health information posted online is not entirely verifiable or valid. However, the practice of searching for medical advice online cannot be unconnected with the recent popularity of online medical services.
A 2018 publication on healthcare technology examined how the different age groups respond to using a virtual method of healthcare service delivery. According to this report, about 40% of millennials –constituting the largest segment of today’s workforce –agreed that remote access to medical care was extremely important. In a way, these generations of 83 million people also find it convenient to schedule an online consultation with a medical doctor then use the conventional models of hospital walk-ins. Nobody seems to be ready to wait for many days, travel hundreds of kilometers, or wait for long hours in a queue just to see a clinician. This simple mindset is the backbone of the recent popularity and approvals that online medical services have enjoyed.
Cost of Medical Care in Physical Hospital Appointments
Globally, healthcare is a big topic, prompting the introduction of many policies and directives aimed at improving access to medical care. In some countries, there are extensive policies put in place to regulate the cost of accessing medical care at a cost the lower class of the economic divide can afford. There are also medical insurance packages that cover many employees and, by implication, subsidizes the amount payable at every session of a hospital appointment. Although these policies appear to be well-intended, not all these plans directly reduce the cost burden of accessing adequate medical care. In fact, the cost of accessing medical care in developed countries of the world are not entirely cheap.
In 2020, The Common Wealth Fund published a report on the United States’ healthcare spending from a global perspective. Details contained in this report suggest that per capita health spending in the U.S exceeds $10,000. This figure is more than two times higher than in France, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. Published data suggests that an average U.S resident can pay about $1,122 out-of-pocket expense to cover the cost of medical care that includes drug costs, payment for doctor’s visits, and health insurance deductibles. In developing countries, the cost of scheduling a hospital appointment has also steadily increased over the last couple of decades.
A recent report on healthcare financing has attributed the increase in healthcare expenditures to the discovery of new treatments and the reduced health coverage offered by insurance companies. As expenditure grows without insurance expansion in many countries, citizens are forced to pay more for even the most basic medical treatment. As it stands, there are enough indications to suggest that the aggregate global expenditure on healthcare has increased steadily but significantly within the last decade. By implication, hospital visits for physical doctor’s appointments are becoming increasingly expensive. To an extent, the unbearable burden of coping with these expenditures offers a partial justification for why many people now prefer to use an online doctor service.
Online Doctor Service Costs
Online doctor services provide medical care remotely. This method of virtually delivering healthcare connects the physician to the patient using advanced technologies in audio and visual technologies. By simply subscribing to a plan, patients can schedule a virtual appointment with a clinician and report for clinical reviews at a later date. This method is not only effective and reliable; it also significantly cashes the cost a patient would have paid if medical care was accessed physically. As first cash, patients are saved the cost burden of traveling hundreds of miles, waiting in long queues, and paying exorbitant fees just to see a clinician.
Many online doctor services now operate an insurance plan that covers common disease conditions, medical counseling on urgent medical conditions, and prescription-only medications. Logically, an uninsured patient will pay more in a physical hospital visit compared to an online doctor service. With an online doctor service, the main cost of accessing healthcare is channeled towards copayment for drugs and ordering tests in other facilities. Many online doctor services do not charge a fee for subsequent patient monitoring and might also offer a discount on multiple appointment bookings. Online doctor services can also set the cost of booking the first appointment for as low as $20.
Unlike in physical hospital visits, the cost of scheduling an online appointment is not strictly fixed and depends on the policy of services providing virtual care. By implication, as the patient pool increases and more people agree to register with these services, the cost of virtual medical care is expected to reduce steadily. Since the patient-doctor interface is done online, the real cost of medical care in this setting is in accessing an uninterrupted internet connection. Market analysts have predicted that the influx of more patients into the telemedicine industry will not only expand the financial projections of the industry but also reduce the cost of healthcare delivery on a virtual platform.