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What You Need to Know About On-The-Road Telemedicine Consultations

Adequate access to healthcare on the road is a big challenge for truckers trying to stay healthy. With a driving schedule that often requires being on the road several hours per day, six days a week, getting to the doctor can be a difficult task. Thanks to the expansion of high-speed internet, telemedicine is now more widely available and may help fill that gap. In fact, many large trucking companies are offering telemedicine as a driver benefit to help employees stay healthy. If you work for a small carrier or are an owner-operator, you may still be able to use affordable telemedicine alternatives when you need acute care. Here are some answers to frequently asked questions to determine if telemedicine is right for you.

How do I know if the telemedicine professionals are qualified?

When choosing to work with a particular telemedicine service, be sure their providers are licensed by the state medical board where the provider practices. Also check for certification by the American Board of Family Medicine.

What is the process for consulting with a medical professional via telemedicine?

The availability of high-definition video streaming has resulted in most telemedicine consultations being conducted via desktop computer or mobile device. Most telemedicine services require you to create an account and enter a brief medical history prior to launching an online consultation. You'll also need to set up a payment method. The process usually takes between 15 and 20 minutes. Once the provider reviews your medical history, you'll receive instructions for launching the remote consultation. This requires a mobile device or computer with a built-in camera or webcam connected to your device. Some telemedicine services may integrate with third-party products, such as Skype or GoTo Meeting, to launch your remote consultation. Others may send a secure link via email to launch your consultation. The telemedicine provider is required by law to use encryption software to protect your personal health information. More on that later.

Can the telemedicine provider write a prescription?

In many cases, the doctor can send an electronic prescription to the pharmacy of your choice. If your pharmacy does not accept electronic prescriptions, your telemedicine provider MAY be able to provide a hard copy of your prescription to the pharmacy via fax. Most telemedicine providers will not issue a prescription for any controlled substance, as listed on federal controlled substances schedules. If you encounter a telemedicine provider willing to write a prescription for a controlled substance, be wary of their qualifications for legally doing so.

What is the cost?

Costs can vary depending on how the telemedicine service works. Most require payment at the time of service. Two business models are typically used by telemedicine services: a subscription model or an on-demand model. With the subscription model, users pay a low monthly fee (typically ranging from $10 to $30) with terms that can vary from month-to-month payment to a full year. With an on-demand payment model, you pay as you go for the services you use - usually a flat rate per consultation ranging from $29 to $49. Read the fine print in the terms and conditions. Make sure you are aware of hidden “consultation” fees that may be charged in addition to your subscription cost. Also, read the cancellation and refund policies in case you decide not to renew your subscription. Be aware that the cost of any prescriptions will not be included in your consultation or subscription rate.

How are medical records kept?

Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) privacy laws apply to telemedicine consultations, as with all medical records. Verify that your telemedicine provider uses encrypted software that will protect your personal health information.

Do providers have access to a full range of examination tools?

Telemedicine is not without its own set of challenges. While an HD smartphone may be sufficient for some telemedicine consultations, others may require further examination with diagnostic and imaging tools. Fortunately, advances in remote medical imaging are truly cutting-edge. Telemedicine providers can use digital stethoscopes, otoscopes, and HD video conferencing to perform a full examination and gather real-time health information from patients.

What conditions can be treated via telemedicine?

Most telemedicine providers advise against using their services in emergency situations. Seek treatment for an emergency at the nearest emergency room. Most also encourage seeking preventative care from a primary care physician or clinic. Beyond those recommendations, however, telemedicine services can vary widely. Some offer counseling and other mental health services and diagnoses. Telemedicine is best suited for treating common illnesses; things such as sinus infections, pink eye, flu-symptoms, urinary tract infections, etc. While telemedicine may present a workable option for receiving medical care, always make your personal health your top priority. If you have a medical condition that impairs your ability to drive safely, don’t drive. Seek medical attention from a qualified practitioner before getting behind the wheel.

The information provided above is intended for your general knowledge only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice or treatment for specific medical conditions. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease without consulting with a qualified healthcare provider. Please consult your healthcare provider with any questions or concerns you may have regarding your condition.