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Telemedicine: Doctor Visits via Video Calls

Health insurers are adding video services to cut costs
Telemedicine: Doctor Visits via Video Calls
Illustration by Al Murphy

One night last fall, Beth Ferrin’s 9-year-old son came home with a swollen throat and fever. It was after dinner, so she flipped open her laptop and dialed into LiveHealth Online, a service offered by her insurer, WellPoint, that connects patients with doctors via video calls. Fifteen minutes later, Ferrin says, “we were on with a doctor.”

After a quick diagnosis of an infection (the doctor, Ferrin says, treated it as strep, though couldn’t diagnose that without a test), a prescription for an antibiotic was called in to a pharmacy near Ferrin’s home in Bellbrook, Ohio. “By 10 p.m., I was back home,” she says. “It was quick and easy.” Her other options would have been to see a doctor in the morning or risk a long wait at an urgent care facility. The video call was faster and cheaper—it cost $40 instead of the $100 a pediatrician would charge, she says.