In the search for ways to stay healthy in the current healthcare cost explosion, telehealth is an exception to the rising costs. A great example of the possible affordable access from *Telehealth is eDOC Homecare, a subscription service for seniors and families. I’d heard about this service, and decided to try it and do a Telehealth review of eDOC Homecare.
This system promises 24/7 access to board certified physicians from your home, office or car, without the wait, hassle or high cost of an office visit. Is it too good to be true? I decided to find out.
The website quickly outlines the basics; eDOC Homecare is an inexpensive subscription service, with cost at $14.95 per month. The eDOC site points out that this is a way that a family care giver can get fast medical guidance about the health challenges of an elderly relative from qualified physicians. Clearly, the challenge of looking after an aging parent that lives at home or even in a senior living complex can weigh heavily on a friend or relative that wants to help. At such a modest price, this seems like a powerful tool to access medical care even when the hour is late and I am on the road.
Taking the Plunge
Since my mother is in her 90s, and has heart problems and other challenges, it seemed like a good fit. I decided to sign up and find out if this is real. Heading to the website I found it to be a bit easier than I thought. There are the usual billing questions, then a registration process that requires entry of medical history. I expected this to be a lengthy challenge, so I decided to see if I could enter my own history (since I know that without looking it up). Fortunately, the $14.95 subscription covers the whole family, including me, so I decided to be the first patient.
The entire sign-up and payment process took less than 20 minutes of my time. This was a bit of a shock compared to forms required at doctors offices over the years. Full access to the system requires administrative work at the company end, and that meant a delay before I could use the system for the first time. Within two days I got the email telling me I have access. I even got printable IDs with phone and account information to make it easy to contact a doc from anywhere.
In less than a week, I hurt my ankle on the tennis court; a perfect opportunity for me to get advice from the doctor! When I was at home and on my computer I used the online sign up process to schedule a virtual office visit. They gave me a couple options for the physician type and I chose Emergency Room, since this seemed like that sort of problem. Since it was a holiday I expected a delay, but instead they offered a phone appointment more quickly than a video session. I took the phone call, since time was more important than putting my ankle in front of a webcam.
I knew this was supposed to be quick, but the call back could take up to an hour – I expected it to take even longer since it was a holiday. It took seven minutes before I got the call. I was surprised that I got the doctor call so fast! He was business-like and quick, seems like he’d done this before 😉 I described the injury, and (of course) he said I should get an x-ray. It didn’t seem that bad, so I pressed the issue, and he advised that it was probably a muscle strain, so risks were limited. The final advice was to ice it, elevate it and stay off of it as much as possible til the swelling goes down. Not earth-shaking, but such advice from a board certified physician in my own state was reassuring. He asked about the pain, and I was satisfied with ibuprofen, so he didn’t need to write a prescription (though he was ready to do so).
My telehealth results
When all the dust cleared I had the same basic conservative medical care I’d have gotten at an urgent care or an emergency room, but without the hassle or the high cost. If I’d gone to the ER, it could have cost several hundred dollars or more. If I’d booked an appointment with my doctor I’d have waited weeks to get to see him, and it would have cost $55. This process was quick, easy and it put my mind at ease.
It is clear that eDOC HOMECARE actually does provide physician access in minutes, and without the hassle or cost of an office visit. Of course there are limitations. If I’d needed the services of a Podiatrist or Orthopedic surgeon, I would have needed an office visit outside my subscription; eDOC HOMECARE provides general practitioners / family practitioners, but not specialists. If it was massive bleeding, terrible chest pains or another serious, life-threatening emergency they would just advise to dial 911. But for most aches, pains, bumps and bruises and the nagging health questions I can get real answers that are practical and affordable. If the ache or pain points to a serious condition, this service can save your life.
The Pros & Cons
I like the service, the convenience and frankly the power of this subscription service, but it is not perfect. Our American healthcare system has challenges, and subscription telemedicine doesn’t solve them all. Here is my assessment of the good and bad aspects of the eDOC HOMECARE telehealth service:
- Offers practical, inexpensive doctor access for aging relatives, family or myself
- The speed was amazing and the convenience was more than I hoped for
- A visit with a real doctor is available any time, day or night, even holidays
- The session and doctor were professional, and the advice solid – I had no doubts
- These virtual “doctor visits” are unlimited for my mother and family members
- Elder care or self care are much less stressful when you can always ask the doctor
- The results are recorded and added to your health record
- It is all done by board certified physicians who will share the results with your family physician or specialist if you like
- You get a visit from a doc in your state (or the one you are visiting) so they can easily provide prescriptions at a local pharmacy if you need them
- According to the AMA, this will handle 70% or more of reasons for office visits, and my experience confirms that analysis
- If you don’t sign up in advance, it can cost you – my first visit was covered in the first month at $14.95, but instant access would have cost me over $50 if I’d not signed up days before and I needed to use the service right away
- They can’t x-ray you or listen to your heart (at least not easily) so if you need that, this isn’t a solution
- This doesn’t replace true emergencies, specialists or family docs (you get different docs each time)
- There are limits to the digital health record they provide, so it won’t list every surgery or past disease you’ve had in some cases (like mine)
- Uploading x-ray data and other material is possible, but not as easy as I would like
- These are board certified MDs, so they offer conservative advice expected from US physicians; no options for coaching, holistic health or alternative medicine
- While virtual video office visits are supported, some of the docs offer phone-only if it is a busy time and you can’t wait for a video visit
The bottom line
For most Americans with or without a family physician and good health insurance telehealth is a powerful tool and eDOC HOMECARE is a great, affordable option. If you need the peace of mind and helpful advice that a doctor can provide for your dad, your kids or others in your family, consider eDOC HOMECARE as a way to get that access for under $15 per month.
I’ve not tested all the telemedicine services, but it is clear that they are growing in power, availability and acceptance by the medical and insurance establishments. For those like me with decent insurance and nearby doctors, this provides faster, more efficient and less expensive care than frequent office visits. For people who are isolated from care by distance, disaster or other barriers, this can be a life saver. This is evident by the great medical access to telehealth provided for recent areas ravaged by hurricanes.
For those who simply can’t afford good insurance or out-of-pocket medical care, this offers a way to get advice and prescriptions that might otherwise be impossible. Even though telehealth providers claim they are not a substitute for a family doctor, they offer much better support than total self treatment for those who can’t afford the high cost of conventional care.
Let us know your experiences with eDOC HOMECARE and other Telehealth services, or share your thoughts on this approach to elder care and family health. The comment form is below.