The healthcare industry changes all the time to accommodate new research findings and integrate new treatments. Yet today’s medical industry is changing like never before in new and major ways, all thanks to the growth of the Internet and prevalence of devices like smartphones and tablets. Healthcare is now at the beginning of a massive shift in how providers deliver patient care, and telehealth companies that provide online access to physicians are flourishing.

In recent decades, education has increasingly moved online. It’s now possible to attain undergraduate and even graduate degrees from reputable colleges and universities, and in a wide range of subjects, without ever leaving your home. Even traditional college courses offered on campus are now integrating more online components than ever. Online education has proven that it is here to stay – and the rapid growth of the thriving telemedicine industry has shown that healthcare is the next new frontier. If current trends are any indication, online medical services will only grow. Already, the competition among online medical providers is fierce. New startups and established traditional practices alike are working toward building an Internet presence to claim their share of an increasingly discerning patient population.

What does the proliferation of online medicine mean for the future of healthcare? There are positive and negative effects of this change. For patients, many of these changes are positive, translating to better access to doctors, better communication with medical providers, greater personalization of care to meet the individual’s needs and less expense. However, not every healthcare problem can be solved by a virtual doctor. You can’t undergo surgery, have wounds stitched, receive vaccinations or undergo tests that require specialized equipment through a video chat or a messaging service. Online medical care can never fully replace face-to-face treatment for all conditions. In addition, every individual online doctor and medical service carries its own advantages and disadvantages.

How do you choose the best online doctor? While which provider is really “the best” can vary according to your needs – instant urgent care for a cold or long-term relationship with a concierge primary care doctor, for example – all patients can better choose a physician when they are informed of the facts. In addition to the pros listed for each service, there are some benefits nearly all online medical services share. They typically provide some form of access to care 24 hours a day, seven days a week, even on holidays. By offering transparent pricing, they empower patients to take charge of their healthcare spending. Of course, the convenience of a virtual house call, especially when you’re sick, is unbeatable. Most online medical services take security and privacy seriously to keep patients’ medical and payment information safe. Because they don’t require the same facilities and equipment as brick-and-mortar doctors’ offices, telemedicine is often more affordable than seeing a traditional provider – even if the particular service does not accept your insurance plan.

Given the numerous benefits of telehealth services, all patients should explore the option of online medical care, whether for an urgent sick visit or a long-term primary care relationship. Read on for help finding out which service is the best online doctor for your needs. All of the top 10 online doctor and medical services for 2018 included on our list below are ranked based on a score out of 100 based on factors such as ease of use, convenience, technology and personalization as well as an overall score.

1. SteadyMD.com

SteadyMD

One standout online doctor and medical service is SteadyMD. The fully online service, which bills itself as a “completely new approach to primary care,” is intended to replace your traditional general practitioner, not just supplement your existing medical services. With SteadyMD, you see the same “doctor friend” – a fully qualified physician with interests similar to yours – each time. Unlike many other online doctor services, SteadyMD charges a flat subscription fee of $99 per patient or $169 per family. This factor can cost you more if you don’t use medical services very often, but it can be money-saving if you expect to use the service more often, given the cost of copayments for traditional primary care. Once you sign up, you typically have a one-hour video chat with your doctor within one to two days, during which your doctor really gets to know you as a person as well as your medical history, lifestyle and health concerns. After that first comprehensive appointment, you can expect unlimited same-day appointments with your doctor. Unlike many other online medical services or traditional primary care visits, these appointments can last as long as it takes to get your questions answered thoroughly. You won’t be rushed out of your virtual exam room in 10 or 15 minutes. In between video chats, you can also text or call your doctor as often as you need. How does your online doctor manage this level of service? Instead of juggling the care of thousands of patients, your SteadyMD doctor has just 200 to 400 patients total.

Pros and Cons

 Pros:

  • SteadyMD retrieves all of your health records for you and integrates the data from any fitness apps you may use, so that your medical records are complete and up-to-date without any work on your part.
  • Patients can enjoy unlimited texts, phone calls and virtual visits via video chats as part of their SteadyMD membership.
  • Starting with your comprehensive first video chat appointment, you build a real relationship with your “doctor friend.” You can count on seeing this same physician each time you have a medical question, concern, illness or injury.
  • If for any reason your doctor is unavailable, other doctors are able to step in to help you with urgent issues. You aren’t on your own if you happen to get sick while your doctor is on vacation, like you might be if you saw a traditional PCP in a solo practice.
  • Visits can last as long as an hour, and you can see or speak to your doctor as often as you need.
  • Once you are an established member of SteadyMD, you typically can get same-day appointments and responses to text messages in just minutes, while it can take weeks to get in to see a traditional primary care doctor.
  • You can personalize your medical care by choosing a doctor who shares your interests. For example, you can choose a doctor who is also a parent, who works with first responders or who is familiar with the LGBTQ community. Many of the interest categories relate to specific exercise or dietary approaches, including weightlifting, running, cycling, the paleo diet or a gluten-free lifestyle.
  • Your doctor sees far fewer patients than a traditional physician, allowing him or her to devote more time to your health needs.

Cons:

  • The subscription membership model may be more expensive, especially for patients who don’t seek medical care often.
  • You have to commit to a one-year membership and will have to finish out your contract even if you decide this healthcare approach isn’t right for you.
  • The first appointment is comprehensive but can take one to two days, making it a better choice for patients who want to take charge of their health than for those who are just looking for an immediate appointment to quickly deal with an urgent problem.

 Score

 Ease of use: 90/100

Convenience factor: 100/100

Technology: 90/100

Personalization: 100/100

Overall score: 95/100

2. MDLIVE

MDLIVE

If you need urgent care, general medical, dermatological or behavioral health care, MDLIVE can help. The online doctor service offers on demand and by appointment medical care 24 hours a day, seven days a week, from the convenience of your own home. In just 15 minutes – less than the time it takes to fill out the new patient forms in a traditional waiting room – you can register for free. Members, of which there are more than 27 million, have their choice of a network of doctors. If you opt for an on demand video or phone visit, you will usually see a doctor within 15 minutes. MDLIVE publishes pricing for each type of appointment, with dermatology being the most affordable at $69, then urgent care at $75 and counseling at $99. If you want to see a psychiatrist through MDLIVE, you will pay $259 for your first visit and $99 for follow-up appointments. Patients with participating insurance plans or other group benefits may pay even less.

Pros and Cons

Pros:

  • Signing up for MDLIVE membership is fast and free, with no subscription charges. You only pay for the care you need.
  • You have the option to see a doctor right away – usually within 15 minutes – or book an appointment for a time that is convenient for you.
  • A free iPhone and Android app makes it convenient to see an online doctor from your smartphone. You can also use a desktop computer with Internet access for videoconferencing appointments or call a toll-free number.
  • MDLIVE is also accessible to the hearing-impaired, with a HIPAA compliant live chat feature.
  • Patients can choose their own doctor from a network of qualified physicians and mental health professionals.
  • MDLIVE physicians can prescribe medications if needed and send them directly to your pharmacy, so you can start feeling better faster.

Cons:

  • Appointments with MDLIVE only last about 15 minutes.
  • The per service flat rate costs are higher than some competitors, though still lower than the cost of a trip to the emergency room.
  • Your computer must meet specific technical requirements to be able to take part in a videoconferencing exam.

Score

Ease of use: 85/100

Convenience factor: 85/100

Technology: 90/100

Personalization: 80/100

Overall score: 85/100

3. Sherpaa

SherpaaSherpaa is a membership model of online medicine, offering care through written messages in the service’s smartphone app and through phone calls. As with SteadyMD, joining Sherpaa requires a membership fee, but in exchange, patients get unlimited, 24/7 care from a small team of four or five doctors. According to Sherpaa, 70 percent of primary care issues can be treated online, starting with doctors asking the right questions and communicating closely with their patients over time to follow up on their health. That’s why getting care from a Sherpaa doctor begins with opening a new Episode of Care and sending a message to your team of doctors, to which you will usually receive a reply in about 20 minutes. Sherpaa physicians act as your virtual primary care doctors, rather than merely a telehealth service that conveniently fills in the gap in medical care left after office hours. The doctors who work full-time for Sherpaa treat around 1,500 different medical conditions, ranging from simple to complex, and are prepared to help coordinate your face-to-face care with local specialists when needed. Sherpaa doctors can order laboratory and imaging tests and prescribe medication appropriate for your condition. If you need short-term care, you can start a visit now and receive a month of unlimited episodes of care for $99. For $270 a year, you can also enroll in Sherpaa’s basic unlimited care plan, which includes benefits like unlimited use of the service, second opinions, specialist referrals and access to prescriptions and test results all within the Sherpaa mobile app.

Pros and Cons

Pros:

  • The cost of a Sherpaa membership, whether at the Basic level or a costlier premium level, is still well below that of a typical emergency room bill.
  • Sherpaa considers itself virtual primary care, not telehealth. Sherpaa doctors can diagnose and treat a much broader range of medical conditions – around 1,500, from the simple to the complex – than most telehealth companies that may focus on just a few dozen conditions.
  • Because Sherpaa doctors act as your permanent primary care physicians, not just a temporary provider you see for a single problem, you can enjoy consistently convenient care that includes immediate responses to your medical issues within minutes at any time of day or night.
  • For Sherpaa members, going to the doctor for sick visits or even annual checkups and preventive care no longer means having to commute to a doctor’s office and wait up to an hour or more to see a doctor for a few, rushed minutes.
  • Unlike other online doctor services, doctor-patient communication isn’t limited to brief 10- to 15-minute virtual appointments. Once your Episode of Care begins, your doctors will follow up with you through messages and phone calls.
  • It typically takes only 20 minutes (or less) to get a response from a message to a Sherpaa doctor about a new Episode of Care, no matter what time of day or night you send the message.
  • You develop familiarity with your team of dedicated doctors, all of whom work full-time for Sherpaa. These doctors have the time to be more dedicated to your care compared to a physician who works elsewhere full-time and is moonlighting with a telehealth service for some extra cash.
  • Sherpaa doctors can order and interpret bloodwork and medical imaging tests and share the results with you via your smartphone app.
  • When your medical condition requires a prescription, your Sherpaa doctor can send that prescription electronically to your established pharmacy or, if you don’t have one, to a new local pharmacy for you.
  • Medical care through Sherpaa is on demand in that you don’t need to schedule an appointment. Simply send your first message about your health issue to your team of doctors, and you will get a reply as soon as possible.

Cons:

  • One factor that sets Sherpaa apart from other subscription membership services on the list is that the service offers tiers of membership. If you want more benefits beyond what the Basic package provides, you will pay more. The Plus membership costs $400 and the Extra membership costs $900 per year.
  • The subscription model is more expensive than a per-service model for patients who don’t see a doctor frequently.
  • Insurance does not cover the cost of a Sherpaa membership, though it may cover the cost of your laboratory and diagnostic testing or count those costs toward your deductible. You may also have the option of paying for your membership with pre-tax dollars though a flexible spending account (FSA) or health savings account (HSA).
  • Because Sherpaa care typically takes place through written messaging and the occasional phone call, the service might be disappointing to patients who expect or prefer an exam via video chat.
  • You don’t speak to the same doctor every time, though you do share messages with the same team of doctors. You also do not get to choose your doctors, but instead are assigned to a team of five to seven doctors.

Score

Ease of use: 75/100

Convenience factor: 90/100

Technology: 88/100

Personalization: 87/100

Overall score: 85/100

4. LiveHealth Online

LiveHealth Online

LiveHealth Online is the most affordable online doctor service to land a spot on our list. General medical and urgent care video appointments cost just $49 without insurance. The service also accepts major insurance plans including Anthem, Amerigroup and Blue Cross Blue Shield. There are no membership or subscription fees. LiveHealth Online offers on demand doctor consultations 24 hours a day for general medical service. You can also seek care for allergy issues and mental health conditions through LiveHealth Online.

Pros and Cons

Pros:

  • Becoming a member of LiveHealth Online is free and easy. There are no membership fees or subscription fees, and you only pay for the medical services you use.
  • Even among online doctor visits, LiveHealth Online is especially affordable. General medical appointments, including urgent care, cost just $49 without insurance, as do allergy appointments. You can see a therapist for $80 or a psychologist for $95. Appointments with psychiatrists are $175 for the initial evaluation and $75 for follow-up appointments.
  • LiveHealth Online accepts a number of major insurance plans, so the actual cost of your care could be even less.
  • The on demand model of care means that you can see a doctor for a general medical appointment right away, usually within 10 minutes, at any time of day or night.
  • Psychology appointments are not available on demand, but you can usually get your first appointment within four days of signing up for LiveHealth Online.
  • Spanish-speaking doctors are available from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. seven days a week through a service called Cuidado Médico.
  • Patients have the option of using the LiveHealth Online app on their smartphone or tablet or accessing the service through a desktop computer.
  • You can choose your own doctor based on information such as their specialty, years of experience and medical school.
  • The service stores your data from past video exams and allows you to choose whether to share part or all of your medical record with your doctor when you need care on a future occasion.

Cons:

  • Appointments with LiveHealth Online doctors generally last just 10 to 15 minutes.
  • You can request a sick note for work or school, but you must do so during your brief appointment and then download it from a desktop computer. You can’t access excuse notes through the smartphone app. If you forget to ask for your note during the visit, you can only request a note by calling the customer support line.
  • Patients don’t have the option to message or email their physicians with additional concerns.
  • For patients who have a busy schedule, the on demand only model of care might not be quite as convenient as an online medical service that allows a choice of on demand care or appointment scheduling.

Score

Ease of use: 85/100

Convenience factor: 90/100

Technology: 85/100

Personalization: 75/100

Overall score: 83/100

5. PlushCare

PlushCare

PlushCare offers fee-for-service video chat exams with physicians across the United States. Though the $99 per visit flat rate cost is higher than some other top online doctor and medical services, PlushCare doctors accept most major insurance plans, PlushCare works with your established PCP and specialists. Rather than an on demand model, PlushCare offers exams by appointment only, though same-day appointments are often available, sometimes within one hour. You can use the service to book an appointment 24 hours a day. If you’re looking for an online doctor that can do prescriptions, PlushCare is a great choice. The service will refill existing prescriptions – with some limitations – and electronically send your online prescription to your local pharmacy for you. A PlushCare doctor can also order lab work for you from a major clinical laboratory network and, once the results are delivered, your PlushCare physician will follow up with you immediately. In addition to general medical care, PlushCare offers respiratory allergy testing, STD testing and HIV prevention medications.

Pros and Cons

Pros:

  • As of 2018, PlushCare has expanded into all 50 states and Washington, D.C.
  • The service requires no monthly or annual subscription charges, so you only pay for the care you use.
  • PlushCare offers transparent pricing for the uninsured, and among patients with an accepted insurance plan, the average copay is under $20.
  • The per-visit flat rate includes everything except your prescription costs, so there are no hidden or recurring fees. The price you see is the price you pay.
  • PlushCare offers a moneyback guarantee and does not charge your credit card until after the visit is complete. This advantage makes the service a perfect choice if you’re not sure whether you should go to the emergency room or urgent care facility, because if your online doctor can’t help you, you don’t pay.
  • PlushCare supports your existing relationships with your PCP and specialist providers, filling in the gaps when you need care outside of regular office hours.
  • Most PlushCare appointments are video consultations with doctors, but in states that allow this option, patients may have the opportunity to choose a phone consultation, as well.
  • You can use either a smartphone app or a desktop computer that has a webcam to hold a video exam with a doctor.
  • Patients have some degree of choice when it comes to selecting a doctor, since they can view physician information as well as appointment days and timeslots.
  • PlushCare allows patients to book appointments a couple of days in advance to work with their schedule if the issue they are having isn’t pressing.
  • If you need a refill on a prescription you already have, PlushCare can order it for up to 90 days, as long as the prescription is within the service’s refill policy.
  • Patients who need to stay home for a few days to recover from their illness can request simple medical forms such as work and school excuse notes for as long as three consecutive days.
  • The service is integrated with major clinical laboratory networks Quest Diagnostics and LabCorp. Your PlushCare doctor will send the referral for laboratory testing electronically, receive the results electronically and immediately reach out to you to follow up on your test results.
  • PlushCare offers a secure, private, HIPAA compliant online option for sensitive medical information, including STD testing and HIV preventive medicines.

Cons:

  • At $99, the cost per visit is higher than some competitors.
  • In general, PlushCare appointments last only 10 to 15 minutes
  • The appointment-only model means that you may have to wait longer to see a doctor though PlushCare than you would for an online doctor visit through a service that offers on demand care.
  • Since appointments are offered only as video and, where allowed, phone consultations, you can’t message or email your physician with questions or updates like you can with some other online doctor services.

Score

Ease of use: 85/100

Convenience factor: 70/100

Technology: 90/100

Personalization: 80/100

Overall score: 82/100

6. DoctorOnDemand

DoctorOnDemand

DoctorOnDemand is offers short video consultations 24 hours a day with doctors who can treat colds, the flu and other general medical conditions. Despite the name, patients have the option of scheduling an appointment for a later time as well as seeing the next available doctor “on demand” and right away. Celebrity psychologist and TV personality Dr. Phil McGraw and his son Jay McGraw are two of the founders of DoctorOnDemand, which began as a startup in San Francisco in 2013. DoctorOnDemand allows patients to choose their own general medical provider only if they book an appointment in advance, not if they want to immediately see a doctor on demand. The service is free to join with no subscription fees and offers care at a flat rate for the uninsured as well as accepting some health insurance coverage and offering discounts through employers and coupon codes. With some of the most popular coupon codes, DoctorOnDemand’s service allows for an online doctor with a free first visit.

Pros and Cons

Pros:

  • Creating an account is free, regardless of whether or not you have health insurance or a participating employer. There are no subscription or membership fees. You only pay when you use the service.
  • DoctorOnDemand provides clear pricing information for patients with no insurance or whose insurance is not accepted. The price for a consultation is $75.
  • DoctorOnDemand accepts major insurance networks like Humana and UnitedHealthcare. Patients who create an account can check their insurance coverage and find out price before seeing a doctor (but after creating an account for free)
  • Patients can use coupon codes to save money on their medical care through DoctorOnDemand.
  • You can use DoctorOnDemand in the way that best fits your needs, whether that means scheduling an appointment for a time that’s convenient for you or seeing a doctor within minutes.
  • In addition to general medical services, DoctorOnDemand also offers therapy and psychiatry services.
  • A physician at DoctorOnDemand is qualified to write prescriptions, though with limitations, and to order laboratory tests.
  • If you need a sick note for work or school, DoctorOnDemand can provide you with one.
  • Patients who have children under 18 can add those children to their account and get medical care for them without needing to create a separate account.
  • If a slow connection or other technical issues prevent you from having an effective video call, you can switch to an audio only call with your doctor. You don’t lose out on getting the medical help you need – and the fee you paid for the visit – just because the connection is slow.

Cons:

  • The $75 consultation only lasts 15 minutes. If you need more time, you have to pay an additional fee to extend the call.
  • You can’t choose or request a doctor if you want to see someone right away. Patients only get the option to choose their physician if they want to schedule an appointment in the future.
  • There’s no option to text or email with your doctor. All consultations are video calls unless you need to switch to an audio only call due to a slow connection or other technical difficulties.
  • The service includes specific technical requirements. Patients need to download the DoctorOnDemand app to use the service on their smartphone. If you want to use a desktop computer, you need a webcam and to use a specific browser (Google Chrome) and web app.
  • There’s no communication between DoctorOnDemand and your PCP. You can share visit notes and lab results with your physician if you choose, but the burden is on you to be proactive about sending the records to your primary care office yourself.
  • While general medical services are offered on demand, psychiatry and psychology are not. You must make an appointment, though this does allow you to choose your provider.
  • DoctorOnDemand doesn’t accept some major insurance plans or Medicare. If the service doesn’t take your insurance, the $75 cost for a 15-minute visit may be more than your copay.

Score

Ease of use: 85/100

Convenience factor: 75/100

Technology: 90/100

Personalization: 70/100

Overall score: 80/100

7. BetterHelp.com

BetterHelp.com

A number of online doctor services offer some mental or behavioral health services alongside their general medical offerings – often at a higher cost and with a longer wait for an appointment. These services come across almost as add-on services, though the therapists, psychologists and psychiatrists must be qualified to practice. However, some online medical services, like BetterHelp.com, focus exclusively on electronic counseling. Though its competitor Talkspace is somewhat more recognized, having partnered with Olympic medalist Michael Phelps, BetterHelp.com actually has more registered users, four million compared to one million. BetterHelp.com employs more than 3,125 licensed therapists and matches you to a therapist based on your answers to a variety of questions about your lifestyle, current emotional state and beliefs. BetterHelp.com therapists provide counseling services by messaging, chat, phone or video, so you can choose the method of communication that makes you most comfortable. If you prefer therapy via messaging, there’s no need to book an appointment because you can send unlimited messages to your therapist on your schedule. Patients who prefer a live session can schedule it via their smartphone, tablet or desktop computer. Instead of racking up high costs with numerous per-session fees or having to limit contact with your therapist to once a week, patients using BetterHelp.com pay an affordable flat fee of $65 weekly that covers all of their communications with their therapist.

Pros and Cons

Pros:

  • The option to see a therapist without leaving home, even through messaging or chat, overcomes many of the obstacles that prevent patients from getting the care they need for mental health issues. You don’t have to worry about the stigma of seeking mental health care, the hassle of getting to the therapist’s office, the need to find childcare or the challenge of finding time in your busy schedule to travel to the office, have your session and then travel back to work or home.
  • The messaging communication option, which takes place in a secure and private virtual room, is open 24 hours a day. Since messaging is not done in real-time, you never have to feel bad about waiting until after you have put the kids to bed to send your therapist your thoughts or sending an update in the middle of the night about something that is worrying you.
  • Live, real-time communication options are also available in the form of chats, phone calls and video sessions. You can schedule a time with your counselor for any of these live sessions.
  • It typically takes less than 24 hours from the time you sign up for BetterHelp.com to get matched to a therapist, so you won’t have to wait long to get help.
  • Because BetterHelp.com takes into account your unique issues, preferences and objectives and available counselors’ approaches and areas of interest, there is some degree of personalization to attaining a provider.
  • If you and your therapist turn out not to be a good match, you don’t have to stop getting help or worry about an awkward split. You can choose to be matched with a new BetterHelp.com counselor.
  • Patients pay a flat fee of $65 that includes unlimited sessions with their therapist using any combination of these four methods of communication. You will never use up your allotted time or sessions.

Cons:

  • Most insurance plans, including Medicare and Medicaid, do not cover counseling services offered by BetterHelp.com, so you will likely have to pay out of pocket for therapy through this online healthcare service.
  • Although the fee is a weekly rate, you are charged for a monthly membership, so you have to commit to a whole month of therapy, or at least, to paying for a whole month of therapy.
  • Therapists employed by BetterHelp.com are not authorized to make a diagnosis, prescribe medication for mental health issues or fulfill court-ordered counseling requirements. However, many therapists you might see face-to-face cannot perform these tasks, either. You need to meet specific state requirements to be qualified to do these tasks. For example, in many states, you would need to be a licensed psychiatrist, physician or nurse practitioner to prescribe medications.
  • Some patients find that they just prefer traditional face-to-face counseling for the opportunity for both the therapist and the patient to pick up on nonverbal cues in conversations or otherwise feel more comfortable seeing a counselor in person.

Score

Ease of use: 80/100

Convenience factor: 70/100

Technology: 90/100

Personalization: 80/100

Overall score: 80/100

8. First Opinion

First Opinion

Somewhat different from most other online medical services is First Opinion. This completely free service offers unlimited messaging 24 hours a day, seven days a week with your Matched Doctor Team (MDT). Through First Opinion, you can ask any questions that arise between PCP visits or that your primary care doctor doesn’t have time to answer. You can even find out if you really need to see a doctor, either online or in person, by asking the right questions. However, First Opinion offers messaging services only. You can’t have a virtual visit or video chat exam with a physician, get an online prescription or get a sick note for work or school from First Opinion. What you can do is finally get answers to the health questions you could never get help for in the traditional healthcare system.

Pros and Cons

Pros:

  • Because the messaging service is 100 percent free, First Opinion is truly a free online doctor consultation – though this consultation is not the same as an exam.
  • Patients don’t have to worry about insurance and billing, because they pay nothing to talk to a doctor.
  • The service runs 24/7, including on weekends and holidays, so you can get answers to health questions whenever it’s convenient to you.
  • There are no limits on the amount of times you can message your doctor team – so ask away.
  • When you first get started with First Opinion, the service matches you with a team of doctors led by your Primary Clinic Director. The simple matching process takes less than a minute, and you get this same team of doctors every time you use the service.
  • Having a whole team of doctors rather than a single physician means that no matter what time of day you ask a question, you can get answers from a real doctor fast – usually within just five minutes.
  • You can use the website or the free iPhone mobile app to chat with a team of doctors on First Opinion.

Cons:

  • First Opinion is a messaging service only. For patients looking for an actual medical exam, and potentially laboratory test orders, prescriptions or sick notes, First Opinion might be a first step toward getting care but won’t fully meet their needs.
  • Since the First Opinion app is currently available only for iPhones, Android users can only chat with a doctor through the website.
  • There isn’t much personalization when it comes to getting matched with a doctor, since your match is based only on basic information such as age and gender. However, you can view a bio of the Primary Clinic Director you are matched with, and you can get to know the members of your Matched Doctor Team since you speak to the same doctors each time you use the service.

Score

Ease of use: 95/100

Convenience factor: 80/100

Technology: 80/100

Personalization: 50/100

Overall score: 77/100

9. Teladoc

Teladoc

Teladoc and many of the other online doctor and medical services out there operate on a very different model compared to SteadyMD. Teladoc isn’t meant to replace your primary care physician. Rather, it provides immediate care for medical conditions like a cold, rash or minor injury that may require care sooner than you might be able to get into your PCP’s office, or those that might otherwise result in a trip to an urgent care or ER but that aren’t true emergencies. Once you request an appointment by phone call, via the website or using the Teladoc mobile app, you can have a video or phone call with a doctor in just minutes, no matter what time of day it is.

Pros and Cons

Pros:

  • Instead of waiting weeks for an appointment with your PCP or hours at an urgent care or emergency room, you can speak to a doctor in minutes.
  • Patients can schedule a doctor visit by phone, over the website or easily using the mobile app.
  • You have the option to request an appointment as soon as possible or to schedule it for a future time that fits your schedule.
  • There’s no time limit on how long you can spend with a doctor once you’re connected. You won’t be rushed off the phone or asked to pay more to extend your appointment.
  • In addition to general medical care, Teladoc offers specialist services such as therapy, dermatology, sexual health and smoking cessation.

Cons:

  • You can’t choose your doctor. Instead, you are assigned a doctor who is licensed to practice medicine in your state. If you use the service more than once, here’s a good chance that you won’t see the same doctor you saw the first time, since you can’t even put in a request.
  • If you need follow-up care, you must either see your PCP or make a new appointment with Teladoc.
  • There’s no clear pricing information available on the website, which can make prospective new patients hesitant to move forward with joining Teladoc. The only pricing information available states that “the cost of a Teladoc visit varies, depending on your plan design.”
  • Even if the Teladoc doctor you see recommends that you consult your PCP for help, you still have to pay a fee for the appointment.
  • Don’t assume that your primary care doctor will know about the incident. Teladoc can send a report to your PCP, but you have to request it.

Score

Ease of use: 80/100

Convenience factor: 90/100

Technology: 80/100

Personalization: 30/100

Overall score: 70/100

10. AmericanWell

Amwell

Amwell is an online doctor to consider if you want to speak with a physician right away. Once you enroll in the service and choose from the available doctors, you enter a virtual waiting room. It takes only minutes to see a doctor via video chat. A typical online doctor visit with Amwell lasts 10 minutes and is intended to supplement your medical care with your existing doctor rather than replace your PCP. Urgent care visits cost $69 if uninsured or just the cost of your copay, if you have a participating insurance policy. With Amwell, you can see an online doctor that can do prescriptions and have those prescriptions sent electronically to your pharmacy, so there’s no hassle for you. The Amwell app has been ranked one of the best online medical apps, but you can also call to speak to a doctor over the phone. In addition to urgent care services, Amwell allows you to talk to a therapist, psychiatrist or specialist in fields such as dermatology, cardiology, pediatrics, physical therapy, nutrition, women’s health and breastfeeding support.

Pros and Cons

Pros:

  • An urgent care visit through Amwell costs just $69, an office visit with your primary care provider would cost $139 and an ER visit would cost $645, on average.
  • Patients with participating insurance plans pay just a portion of this cost as their copayment. Amwell accepts more than three dozen insurance plans, including those from major insurers such as Aetna, Anthem, Cigna and Blue Cross Blue Shield.
  • Amwell has historically offered patients an online doctor with a free first visit, or other discounts, by using coupon codes.
  • With urgent care services as well as medical services in nine additional specialties, the kinds of care offered through Amwell is more comprehensive than through many other online doctor sites.
  • If your Amwell physician feels it is medically appropriate to do so, he or she will write you an online prescription and send that prescription to your local pharmacy electronically.
  • As soon as you choose a physician to connect with, you enter into the virtual waiting room and can expect to see a doctor in minutes – no matter what time of day it is.
  • The average wait time for a virtual doctor visit through Amwell is just three minutes.
  • Since all care offered through Amwell is on demand, you never have to worry about your care being pushed back or squeezed in between other patients’ appointments.
  • The Amwell app has consistently been the most popular consumer telehealth app worldwide, but if you prefer not to use the app, you have the option of connecting via the website on a desktop computer or setting up your virtual exam over the phone.
  • You can choose your physician from the list of available doctors, so patients do have some say in which doctor they will see.
  • Amwell services are intended to support the care you already receive from your primary physician by helping you with non-emergency medical conditions that occur after hours or when an in-office visit would be too inconvenient. At the end of your exam, you will be asked whether you want Amwell to send a copy of your after-visit summary to your PCP.

Cons:

  • Because Amwell offers only on demand medical care, you can’t use the service to set up an appointment for a time that works with your schedule. Instead, you have to wait until you have the time to speak with a doctor and then wait for one to become available.
  • The $69 cost is for urgent care appointments and appointments with specialists in women’s health. Some specialties are even more affordable, and others have a cost range instead of an exact price. However, virtual visits with the most expensive specialists can cost up to $199.
  • An urgent care appointment through Amwell typically lasts just 10 minutes.
  • Amwell is not intended to replace your primary care physician and cannot order laboratory tests.
  • Patients see their Amwell doctors via video streaming services, but don’t have the option to message, email or use other forms of communication to contact their doctor further.

Score

Ease of use: 75/100

Convenience factor: 60/100

Technology: 90/11

Personalization: 55/100

Overall score: 70/100