Patient exploring medical costs

What Do Online Doctors Cost?

Global Healthcare spending is the subject of many debates and policy conferences. People simply want to know how the cost of accessing healthcare has changed over the years. Healthcare budgets reportedly gulp more than 10% of the GDP of most developed countries and more in less developed countries. Tracking the value change of this cost is important in formulating a new approach to healthcare financing. As it stands, the bulk of the global healthcare spending is directed towards insurance copayments, medicines, hospital appointments, and new medical treatment. Many reports have suggested that decreasing patients’ out-of-pocket spending will play a major role in increasing the reach of modern medicine.

By 2022, global healthcare spending is projected to reach over $10 trillion. Northern Europe is expected to contribute the largest quota of about 16%, as Western Europe follows closely at 10%. Latin America inspected to contribute about 8%, and the Middle East and Africa are both expected to contribute the lowest quota amounting to about 5% of the total projection. In the United States alone, per capita, spending is pegged at $10,224 –the largest in the world. With the recent data, the United States National Health Expenditure is expected to reach $4.3 trillion by 2023.

There seem to be many policies subsidizing healthcare spending in physical visits; however, these subsidies are not equally distributed in many countries. The burden of accessing medical care for an average citizen is largely measured with the cost of out-of-payments needed to get adequate medical care. In a 2019 fact sheet, the National Health Expenditure Data suggest that 31% of the total healthcare spending is covered by private health insurance, 21% by Medicare, 16% by Medicaid, and 10% by Out-of-pocket spending. On average, the 11% out-of-pocket spending can amount to about $1,122 for a U.S resident. This cost is paid as co-payment that covers prescription medicine, payment for doctor’s visits, and health insurance deductibles.

Online Doctor Services and Healthcare Cost

An early proposal to reduce the cost of healthcare globally was in delivering medical care remotely. Primarily, online doctor services were expected to expand the reach of modern medicine by leveraging digital technology in healthcare delivery. Patients who are in need of primary care and non-emergency care can register with these services and get treated. Unlike some healthcare facilities that focus more on cosmetics and appearances such facial spas, virtual doctors go through the exact same conventional training and certification as any U.S. based healthcare professional. From scheduling an appointment to conduction an assessment on therapy outcome, the online doctor is connected virtually to the patient using a mobile application supplied by a Digital Healthcare Technology Vendor. However, there are certain services such as children’s therapy that must be done at a physical ABA therapy center.

Getting medical care online or even refilling a prescription has many advantages. The first of many is in reducing the amount payable as out-of-patient spending. With online doctor services, patients do not need to be physically present in a clinic. All processes involved are virtually delivered. By implication, this means patients can avoid traveling long distances, waiting for days to schedule an appointment, and standing in queues for long hours before seeing a clinician. To a large extent, these are the immediate barriers to accessing medical care in the convention setting of a hospital visit. Removing these barriers is expected to reduce the overall burden of out-of-pocket payment in healthcare expenditure

Pricing structure seems to have a direct effect on how people respond to healthcare delivery. On average, every patient with a non-emergency condition prefers to patronize a system of healthcare delivery that offers the best service for less money. Except in elective surgical procedures in which costs are usually fixed, the cost of getting treatment in a hospital walk-in is not fixed. The cost of such visits can range from a few hundred to a few tens to a few hundreds of dollars. In 2018, a publication of the International Journal of Medical Informatics published a research study examining service provision, pricing, and patient satisfaction in online health communities. Research results provided empirical evidence suggesting that the low service price level offered by online healthcare service providers led to an increase in patient satisfaction.

Online Doctor Services and Hospital Walk-ins –Comparing Cost

There are many survey submissions suggesting that it is relatively cheaper to get medical care online than in person at a clinic. Except for the side costs involved in traveling, scheduling an appointment, and waiting for hours to see a doctor, physical appointments appear more expensive. Patients who are registered to an online doctor service pay far less for the same level of satisfaction. Experts have argued that since patients access online doctors from the comfort of their homes, it is easy to get satisfied since there is little or no barrier. Basically, many online doctor services only charge a one-time membership fee and a medical fee that covers online prescription, medical care, and patient monitoring services. These services might vary depending on the services.

One of the most detailed research study ever conducted to compare the healthcare cost difference between online doctor service and physical appointments in a clinic was published in 2017 by HealthAffairs. This study estimates parameters involved in physically visit a doctor’s clinic. This estimate includes travel time and total time at the physician’s office. The average total time spent was estimated at 121 minutes, with an average dollar value of $43. Comparing these time to time estimates directly related to telehealth, the researchers find a 31% reduction. The research result suggests that the average telehealth visit costs $49, the average in-person clinic visit for urgent care costs $149, while the average trip to the emergency room costs $1,734.

In cases where an online doctor service provides or recognize an existing insurance cover, patients might pay far less than the average telehealth visits cost. Paying less money for a virtual appointment has been found to improve patients’ satisfaction and significantly reduce the out-of-pocket expenses associated with securing healthcare. About 28% percent of China’s population currently uses virtual healthcare services –the highest in the world. As it stands, many people are considering registering with an online doctor service for non-emergency medical care.

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