The World Health Organization’s recommended advice for suspected coronavirus patients who are not considered to be high risk is to remain at home and seek medical advice remotely before admitting themselves to hospital.
This strategy is designed to contain the spread of COVID-19, reducing the risk of contamination by avoiding overcrowding hospitals, which means restricting patient numbers in hospital waiting rooms and reserving beds for those who desperately need them.
In countries such as Colombia, healthcare providers have shifted their triage processes online, and in the U.S, the government has approved emergency aid worth $500 million to assist Medicare providers with the transition to telemedicine.
And this transition to administering remote healthcare, as opposed to in a doctor’s surgery or a hospital, has allowed telemed apps to come into their own.
In order to assist patients paying for telehealthcare, U.S insurers Cigna and Humana have offered to waive health insurance costs associated with COVID-19 symptoms. More recently, Aetna has also promised to overlook insurance-related costs for coronavirus-related hospital admissions.
We’ve curated a list of the telemed apps that are helping patients stay at home – and practice social distancing – while they receive their diagnosis.
Although the telemed app is not permitted to send out or request tests for COVID-19, MDLIVE has designed a risk assessment for patients who suspect they might be showing coronavirus symptoms, based on guidelines from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
The application claims it is able to diagnose and treat over 80 common conditions via online consultations with the help of a network of certified doctors. It can also hand out sick notes to excuse patients from school or work for up to two weeks.
For patients suffering from anxiety or feeling the burden of quarantine on their mental health, MDLIVE also has licensed therapists and certified psychiatrists on board.
Virtual appointments with health professionals range from $69 to $259.
Telehealth app Lemonaid is offering remote consultations with U.S-based doctors to discuss coronavirus-related health concerns starting at $75 per virtual visit.
The app has also teamed up with home diagnostics startup Scanwell to work on and, eventually, distribute an at-home test for novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2), responsible for the COVID-19 outbreak. The two small businesses are currently in the early stages of setting up and preparing for their clinical trial.
Once the home test has been trialled, the telemed apps intend for patients to first complete an online questionnaire, which will be evaluated by a doctor or nurse practitioner. If appropriate, they can then order the test and it will be dispatched the following day. The total cost of the test will be $70, without insurance.
The Lemonaid team is available nine hours a day during the week and four hours a day on the weekends to review patients’ online surveys, respond to their virtual requests and dispatch medicines to their local pharmacies.
Cleveland Clinic Express Care
Using this telemed app, patients can request 10-minute virtual visits from healthcare providers on demand, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The Cleveland Clinic’s Express team can then evaluate the suspected illness and identify if the patient is at risk of contracting COVID-19. If so, doctors will outline next steps, and if not, help the patient to manage symptoms.
Patients aged 2 and above can benefit from the app’s services, which are designed for non-emergency medical concerns.
As part of its mission to prevent the spread of COVID-19, this Ohio-based telemed app is offering to waive co-pay and on-demand payment for the virtual consultations it offers, regardless of health insurance coverage.
The express app is part of the online services provided by the non-profit academic Cleveland Clinic medical center, which integrates clinical and hospital care with research and education.
Starting at a price of $99 without health insurance, Plushcare users can book a virtual appointment to speak to a board certified doctor or health professional and receive an online screening for coronavirus symptoms.
If deemed necessary, Plushcare doctors can issue orders for a COVID-19 test, which patients can then submit to their local testing centers.
The telemed app was originally founded by a doctor and his business partner in order to reduce waiting times for patients in medical centers. Now, the team has expanded to a team of over 20 doctors, with an average of 15 years experience each.
While the majority of telemed apps are marketed towards countries without a publicly-funded national health service, in countries such as Sweden, where healthcare is mainly government funded, governments agreed to compensate telemedicine providers with public funds for the first time in 2017.
Likewise, at the start of this year, the UK’s NHS announced a 10-year partnership with telemedicine service Babylon to offer more patients online consultations, as part of a move to digitize the health system.
And now, with the arrival of COVID-19, never has there been a more important time for both patients and governments to invest in telemedicine. Luckily, telemed apps – which are currently experiencing an all-round PR boost — provide a quick and user-friendly way to do it.
Although it’s never too late for telemed startups to start thinking about their app PR to help reach more patients, especially at a time like this.