Based in the US, Teladoc is a juggernaut in the telemedicine space, tracing its origins back to 2002. It has a multinational presence, and is active in 130 countries. According to its most recent financial report, Teladoc serves over 12,000 clients, including over 40 health plans, over 300 hospitals and health systems, and approximately 27 million patients access their services.
Teladoc provides a leading platform for patients to connect with licensed physicians and other professionals. Reportedly, the providers on their panel are of the highest quality licensed physicians and nurses, are board certified in their specialty with an over 90% satisfaction rating, and are among the top 5% of specialists worldwide. It is claimed that the providers are among the best in their over 450 specialties, according to peer voting. The doctors are also located across all 50 US states.
Care is provided across multiple areas of medicine, from the more basic, to more complex needs. An example given is rather than going to an Urgent Care Center, for the flu or a stomach ache, then you can substitute a virtual visit, and speak with a doctor on a 24/7 basis for advice on your problem. In a more specialized scenario, the patient with a rash, acne or eczema can upload the images of the skin problem to an online dermatologist for a diagnosis and treatment for these common skin conditions.
Teladoc also has offerings for mental health conditions as well. For patients that feel anxious, stressed or depressed, there are professionals, including both psychiatrists and therapists available for those needs. There is also mental health support available to provide those still struggling that provides for additional guidance from mental health specialists.
Sometimes a patient has seen a specialist, and has more complicated medical needs. In those cases, there is access to medical opinions from medical experts, that can serve as a virtual second opinion from an expert in the field. This medical expert can review the case, and provide guidance on the need for surgery, a specific diagnosis, or a path for treatment. Teladoc states that through the services of their medical experts, 79% of treatments get modified, and 39% of surgeries are avoided.
Teladoc’s service does indeed garner some complaints. The first issue is that there is some effort and time required for the initial setup of the account on the smartphone app. This includes entering your past medical history, analogous to filling out new patient intake forms when going to a new doctor. This gets compounded as users are frustrated when they change phones, and upon opening the Teladoc app in their new phone and using their login credentials, somehow they then need to re-enter all the background data which is not saved to their account.
While users get to communicate directly with a physician, the Teladoc offering does leave them wanting for more. For example, some complain that the doctor calls from an unlisted number, and they hesitate to answer, or users that block these types of calls in their phone to avoid getting spam calls then cannot connect. Another issue is with a video call, the user is unable to see the doctor for a true interactive experience. There are also a few patients expressing concern that the doctor that they connected with was rushed, and less than caring.
Also, the medical care is limited to more basic items that can be completed in a single session. In the case that you need a test ordered, which is how plenty of medical care is delivered these days, then it cannot be done via Teladoc, and there is a reasonable concern that then the patient will need to still turn to another provider for their medical care.
Support is available on a 24/7 basis via a toll free number. A shortcoming is that this is the only method available for contact, leaving those that prefer other options that are less time critical, such as email, online portal or chatbot, without other options.
Teladoc also has the ability to “Share your story,” through an online suggestion portal, although we would like to see these types of options available for more routine support.
A problem with healthcare currently is that the pricing is not transparent, which hardly encourages patients to comparison shop for the their best price for a healthcare related service. Along this theme, Teladoc provides no specific pricing on their site, and rather we get the following statement:
“Services may vary based on health plan or employer. Please set up your account to see which services are available to you and how much they cost. Your welcome letter or benefit manager can show you how much they cost.”
The benefit that we can glean is that at least some insurance companies do provide coverage for a visit with a Teladoc provider, although the actual cost is unknown.
Teladoc is a market leading solution for patients to connect with top doctors through their smartphone. We appreciate that Teladoc offers a variety of services that range from urgent care to virtual second opinions, that at least in some cases are covered by major insurance providers, and that there are mobile apps for both Apple and Android devices.
We do wish for more transparent pricing prior to creating an account, that the background patient data did not disappear when using a new device and that calls do not come from unlisted numbers.
Overall, Teladoc does provide a valuable service, and it is easy to see why they are so popular in the virtual visit space.
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