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What is telehealth?

Hearing a lot about telehealth and telemedicine lately? Connecting with your health care provider online is a great way to get the health care you need from the comfort and safety of your own home.

On this page:

What does telehealth mean, what types of care can i get using telehealth, benefits of telehealth.

Telehealth — sometimes called telemedicine — lets your health care provider care for you without an in-person office visit. Telehealth is done primarily online with internet access on your computer, tablet, or smartphone.

There are several options for telehealth care:

  • Talk to your health care provider live  over the phone or video chat.
  • Send and receive messages  from your health care provider using secure messaging, email, and secure file exchange.
  • Use remote monitoring  so your health care provider can check on you at home. For example, you might use a device to gather vital signs to help your health care provider stay informed on your progress.

There are many options to access telehealth if you don’t have a stable internet connection or device connected to the internet. Read more about how to get help with access to telehealth .

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You can get a variety of specialized care through telehealth. Telehealth is especially helpful to monitor and improve ongoing health issues, such as medication changes or chronic health conditions.

Your health care provider will decide whether telehealth is right for your health needs. Ask your provider’s office what your telehealth options are, especially if you are concerned about the health risk of COVID-19.

Care you can get with telehealth

  • Lab test or x-ray results
  • Mental health treatment, including online therapy, counseling, and medication management
  • Recurring conditions like migraines or urinary tract infections
  • Skin conditions
  • Prescription management
  • Urgent care issues like colds, coughs, and stomach aches
  • Post-surgical follow-up
  • Treatment and follow-up appointments for attention deficit disorder (ADD) and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Physical therapy and occupational therapy
  • Remote monitoring services that help you track your health goals and manage chronic conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol

Tip: Are you new to telehealth? Get tips and information on the basics of telehealth  (PDF).

Your health care provider may also ask you to send information that will help improve your health:

  • Your weight, blood pressure, blood sugar, or vital information
  • Images of a wound, or eye or skin condition
  • A diary or document of your symptoms
  • Medical records that may be filed with another provider, such as X-rays

Health care providers can send you information to manage your health at home:

  • Notifications or reminders to do rehabilitation exercises or take medication
  • New suggestions for improving diet, mobility, or stress management
  • Detailed instructions on how to continue your care at home
  • Encouragement to stick with your treatment plan

Tip: Tip Sheet for patients: 6 Ways to Power Up Your Health with Telehealth (PDF).

Virtual visits are growing in popularity. Though in-person office visits may be necessary in certain cases, there are many benefits of telehealth care.

  • Limited physical contact reduces everyone’s exposure to COVID-19
  • Virtual visits ensure you get health care wherever you are located – at home, at work, or even in your car
  • Virtual visits cut down on travel, time off from work, and the need for child care
  • Virtual health care tools can shorten the wait for an appointment
  • Increased access to specialists who are located far away from your hometown

Watch How Telehealth Helps Patients Access Care (video) to learn how to get the health care you need.

Telehealth is not a perfect fit for everyone or every medical condition. Make sure you discuss any disadvantages or risks with your health care provider.

Get tips for finding a health care provider who provides telehealth .

Telehealth: What to Know for Your Family  (PDF) — from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services

For Patients

Hearing a lot about telehealth? Telehealth, sometimes called telemedicine, is a great way to get health care from your home.

Telehealth and COVID-19

Telehealth can help you get access to your health care provider without spreading or getting COVID-19.

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  • Virtual visits for members with plans through work
  • Virtual visit checklist

Virtual visits

Talk to a health care provider from your computer, tablet or smartphone.

What is a virtual visit? It may be a term you’re hearing more often. That’s because the use of virtual visits, also known as telehealth, has expanded recently, offering people more ways to connect with a health care provider from home or work. During a virtual visit, you use digital technologies, like your smartphone, tablet or computer, to talk with a provider. You can get treatment options and even prescriptions for medications, if needed.

UnitedHealthcare offers members options for virtual visits with local providers or by using UnitedHealthcare’s preferred national providers. For benefits coverage information, please  sign in to your health plan account . Let’s go over some of the basics about virtual visits and how they work.

online health visits

Are virtual visits covered?

Virtual visits may be covered by your health insurance in a similar way to an office visit with your doctor. Depending on your benefit coverage, you may be able schedule a virtual visit with a local provider or have a virtual visit for primary care, therapy, specialty care or 24/7 with a national provider for urgent care or when your provider is not available. Sign in to your health plan account  or call the number on your member ID card to check your benefits for virtual visit coverage. Below are some options that may be available, based on your health plan.

Virtual care may include in-network virtual visits for medical, mental health, physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, chiropractic, home health, vision, hearing and dental services.

How do virtual visits work?

Virtual visits don’t require special equipment, and it can be easy to get started. If connecting with a local provider, you can talk to your provider by phone first and ask questions before you start your visit, so you’re prepared when it’s time to start your appointment. Want to get a picture of how a visit might go?

Virtual visits for mental health

If you need care for mental health issues, local health care providers may be able to provide virtual visits. Coverage may depend on your health plan benefits, so  sign in to your health plan account  or call the number on your member ID card first to learn what benefits may be available to you.

Emotional support by phone or mobile app

Some emotional support programs may be included with certain health plans. Sign in to your health plan account to learn if the following benefits may be available with your health plan.

  • With Self Care by AbleTo , get personalized content that’s designed to help you boost your mood and shift your perspectives.
  • With Talkspace online therapy, you can regularly communicate with a therapist, safely and securely from your phone or desktop. No office visit required. Talkspace is convenient, safe and secure. Simply register (first visit only) and choose a provider and message anywhere, anytime. Eligible members can visit talkspace.com/connect to get started.
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  • Is Virtual Care Right For Me

TYPES OF VIRTUAL CARE VISITS

IN MINUTES, CONNECT WITH ONE OF OVER 700 BAPTIST HEALTH PROVIDERS.

Available  24/7 without an appointment and treats many of the same conditions treated at urgent care locations.

How it Works

  • Conducted on-demand with the next available provider
  • Uses video on your smartphone, tablet, or computer via MyChart
  • Your insurance will be billed for this visit and we collect a co-pay per your insurance
  • Best for conditions like: coronavirus/flu screening, sinus congestion, headaches and sore throat

It's a dynamic, online questionnaire where you answer questions about your symptoms that helps the Baptist Health provider recommend a treatment .

  • Allows you to skip the waiting room, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week
  • No need for video
  • eVisits cost $30, with no insurance billed.
  • Best for conditions like: coronavirus/flu screening, sinus congestion, headaches and pink eye

It's a secure, virtual primary care or specialist visit whenever your provider's office is open .

  • Requires a scheduled appointment with your primary care provider or specialist
  • Has the same cost as an in-person provider visit
  • Best for conditions like: allergies, urinary tract infections, skin conditions, cold or cough, etc.

Urgent Care without the drive

TytoCare is a hand-held, medical device kit that allows for remote medical exams from our providers at any time. Many conditions require a physical exam for diagnosis and treatment, but the TytoCare device allows a Baptist Health virtual provider to take precise measurements of the vital signs needed to diagnose and treat your symptoms appropriately.

TytoCare device

Insurance & Cost Information

In most cases, Virtual Care is covered by insurance.

  • For eVisits , no insurance is billed and there is a flat cost of $30.
  • For Urgent Care Video Visits , your insurance will be billed for this visit and collect a co-pay per your insurance. Any portion not covered by your insurance plan will be billed and collected after the visit. Urgent care pricing follows the same pricing structure as standard in-office urgent care visits. If you should have any questions regarding your insurance and virtual care, please contact your insurance carrier.
  • For Scheduled Video Visits , your insurance will be billed for this visit and collect a co-pay per your insurance. Any portion not covered by your insurance plan will be billed and collected after the visit. Scheduled video visit pricing follows the same pricing structure as standard in-office visits and varies per appointment type (primary care, specialist, etc.). If you should have any questions regarding your insurance and virtual care, please contact your insurance carrier.
"The provider was very kind, understanding, and quick! She was able to quickly assess and diagnose me. Best Telehealth experience I have had." ~ Urgent Care Video Visit Patient

Virtual Care makes digital healthcare more personalized through 3 different visit types: eVisits, urgent care video visits and scheduled video visits. Below demonstrates what conditions are treated by each type of visit.

Care Finder

Care Finder asks you about your symptoms to recommend the most convenient care options for you to receive care, including online eVisits or video visits or in-person care.

  • Find Care Now
  • Choosing a Virtual Care Visit

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Urgent Care Video Visits Frequently Asked Questions

  • Sinus infections

To get started with an urgent care video visit, you must have a MyChart account. If you have a MyChart account, sign in to  get started on your computer or Baptist Health MyHealth mobile ap p . You can also sign up now to get started in one easy process.

While you can't choose your Baptist Health provider for an urgent care video visit, all our visits are handled by a pool of highly-qualified Baptist Health urgent care providers. Your urgent care video visit will also be documented in your MyChart account if your primary care provider needs to review the visit in the future.

Scheduled Video Visits Frequently Asked Questions

  • Access anywhere via your MyChart account on your smartphone, tablet or computer.
  • All your medical records are in one place.
  • Appointments available when your PCP or specialist office is open.
  • Private, easy to use and secure.
  • Affordable cost. 
  • A MyChart account
  • If on a mobile device, download the  Baptist Health MyHealth app

MyChart is required for any video visit completed through MyChart. 

If you're interested in a scheduled video visit with your Baptist Health provider, contact your provider's office to schedule an appointment and mention your interest in using virtual care.

eVisit Frequently Asked Questions

eVisits are appropriate for over 25 different conditions including but not limited to allergies, sinus infections, cough, ear pain, bladder infections, UTIs, migraines, headaches, GERD, rashes, low back pain, pink eye, head lice or mouth sores.

eVisits provide the same quality care you trust from Baptist Health and our providers without you having to leave home and no matter the day or time. eVisits are a low cost option for urgent care that allow you to skip the waiting room and all information from an eVisit is available within your medical record in MyChart.

While you can't send your eVisit to your Baptist Health primary care provider, all our eVisits are handled by a pool of highly-qualified Baptist Health urgent care providers. Your eVisit will also be documented in your MyChart account if your primary care provider needs to review the visit in the future.

Benefits of Virtual Care at Baptist Health

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Baptist Health Virtual Care operates 24/7. If you wake up in the middle of the night and don't feel well, you can stay home, hop on your phone and be seen instantly.

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With all of Virtual Care taking place via MyChart, any virtual care visit you have is documented in your medical record so there's no need to tell your current or future providers about previous visits or start your health history from ground zero.

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Virtual Care is given only by Baptist Health providers that are highly qualified professionals in their field. And you don't have to have a primary care provider already to get virtual care. Visit our provider directory to learn more about our providers.

"I thought it was great. When you don't feel well it's hard to go for a dr visit. This was so easy and fast!" ~ eVisit Patient

Get started with virtual care:

It's a dynamic, online questionnaire where you answer questions about your symptoms that helps the Baptist Health provider recommend a treatment.

It's available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week without an appointment and treats many of the same conditions treated at urgent care locations.

It's a secure, virtual primary care or specialist visit whenever your provider's office is open.

Do you have a primary care provider?

If you are new to Baptist Health, our primary care practice can serve as an entry point into the Baptist Health system, giving you access to expert physicians, some of the most advanced technologies and many convenient locations.

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Telehealth: What Is It, How to Prepare, Is It Covered?

What is telehealth.

Telehealth is a service that uses video calling and other technologies to help you see your doctor or other health care provider from home instead of at a medical facility. Telehealth may be particularly helpful for older adults with limited mobility and for those living in rural areas, as they will have the opportunity to see and talk with their doctor from their home. For older adults, talking with their doctor online, through a phone, tablet, or other electronic device, can often be easier, faster, and less expensive than making a trip to an office.

Telehealth can also help support family caregivers who are taking care of their loved ones either close by or from afar. If a caregiver needs to ask the doctor a question, they can do so through an online health portal rather than waiting for and traveling to an in-person appointment.

How to Prepare for a Telehealth Appointment: Tips for Older Adults

The transition from in-person to online appointments can be difficult for some people, especially those who are not familiar with the technology. By taking a few minutes before your appointment to prepare , you can set yourself up for a more successful visit.

  • Add online appointments to your calendar. Once your appointment is confirmed, add it to your calendar so you don’t forget.
  • Try to use the best camera you can find. This may be attached to your phone, laptop, tablet, or desktop computer. A clear picture can help your doctor understand and address your concerns more easily and effectively.
  • Test the camera in advance. Practice in advance with a family member or a friend to make sure you understand how to use your camera when you have your online visit with your doctor.
  • Test the sound and video on your device. Most devices have built-in microphones and speakers, but you may have to turn them on or enable the telehealth software or website to access them. Video calling a friend before your appointment can help ensure that everything is working properly. Using headphones or earbuds may make it easier for you to hear your doctor and for your doctor to hear you, but it’s good to test these out first to see what works best.
  • Use the best internet connection possible. If you are not using Wi-Fi, try getting the best signal by using a wired connection to your router or an Ethernet cable. If you are using Wi-Fi, being physically close to the internet router and minimizing devices connected to it can help improve your connection.
  • Charge your device. If you are using a wireless device, like a phone, laptop, or tablet, check to make sure your battery is charged enough to last through your appointment. Try charging it the night before your appointment.
  • Find a quiet space and adjust lighting. Limit distractions and clutter in your space. Try finding a place with good lighting so your doctor can see you properly.
  • Position yourself. Place your device on a sturdy surface so you can move around if you need to. Try positioning your device so your head and shoulders are in the camera frame.
  • Prepare a list of questions/concerns. Being prepared for your appointment will help make it easier for you and your doctor to cover everything you need to talk about.

Are Telehealth Appointments Covered by Insurance?

Many insurance providers, including Medicaid and some private insurers, are beginning to cover telehealth services. However, telehealth coverage varies widely from state to state with differences in how telehealth is defined and paid for. Because insurance coverage policies differ, it’s important to check with insurance providers or your health care provider’s billing department directly for the latest information about coverage for telehealth services.

Will Medicare Cover My Telehealth Appointment?

If you are enrolled in Medicare Part B, certain telehealth services, like doctor’s visits, outpatient care, medical supplies, and preventive services may be covered.

The specific amount you will owe may depend on several factors, including:

  • Other insurance you may have
  • How much your doctor charges
  • The type of facility
  • Where you get your test, item, or service

Medicare also covers virtual check-ins and E-visits .

Medicare Advantage Plans are a type of Medicare health plan offered by a private company that contracts with Medicare to provide Part A and Part B benefits. These plans may offer more telehealth benefits than Original Medicare.

Medicare plans are constantly changing and updating. Check with your provider to see what telehealth benefits are offered for your plan.

Learn more about Medicare and telehealth services .

Online Clinical Research Assessments and Trials

Are you involved in a clinical trial or considering participating in research ? Typically, clinical trials require in-person visits. However, some clinical trials are conducting initial surveys or tests for research online, while some studies and trials are being conducted entirely online. Conducting clinical studies online can help encourage people to participate. Online clinical trials help eliminate travel time to trial sites and allow patients to participate from the comfort of their own home. This is increasingly beneficial for older adults who have limited mobility.

Find a clinical trial that works for you using the Clinical Trials Finder or ClinicalTrials.gov .

You may also be interested in

  • Learning five ways to get the most out of your doctor's visit
  • Reading about what you need to tell your doctor
  • Finding out how to prepare for a doctor's appointment

Sign up for e-alerts about healthy aging

For more information about telehealth services.

Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services 800-633-4227 877-486-2048 (TTY) www.cms.gov www.medicare.gov

Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality 301-427-1364 [email protected] www.ahrq.gov

The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) 202-690-7151 [email protected] https://www.healthit.gov/

Medicaid 877-267-2323 866-226-1819 (TTY) [email protected] www.medicaid.gov

This content is provided by the NIH National Institute on Aging (NIA). NIA scientists and other experts review this content to ensure it is accurate and up to date.

Content reviewed: August 26, 2020

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A Beginner’s Guide to a Virtual Doctor’s Visit

Here's a step-by-step guide for patients as online health care services continue to grow.

This article is based on reporting that features expert sources.

A Beginner's Guide to Telehealth

Over the past year, the COVID-19 pandemic has forced some big changes in the world of medicine, making telehealth much more widely available than ever before. Although the pandemic is continually shifting, it looks like the telehealth expansion is here to stay. Read on for a detailed overview of telehealth and what to expect from a virtual doctor's visit.

Close up of a father and daughter having a video call with their doctor

(Getty Images)

What Is Telehealth?

Though it may feel very 21st century, telehealth is not a new concept. With the advent of the telephone, the idea of telehealth soon emerged. An article in the Lancet medical journal describes the history of the telephone in medicine, starting with Alexendar Graham Bell's momentous invention in 1876, and the rapid awareness of telephone's potential to reduce unnecessary office or home visits.

As technology has continually developed since, the push to offer more services remotely has increased, and today, telehealth is exploding in popularity.

These are some commonly used terms:

  • Telemedicine. You may be seeing multiple terms related to the delivery of health services in a remote way. Telehealth is the more common term, but telemedicine is also used sometimes. Though they're technically different terms, these days they're used largely interchangeably by most health organizations, says Dr. Megan M. Chiarelli, a psychiatrist and medical director of behavioral health integration with the Facey Medical Group in Mission Hills, California.
  • Virtual visit. A virtual visit is another term that typically connotes "live, two-way audiovisual communication," Chiarelli says, "but there are many other ways we use technology to provide the right care at the right place and right time."
  • Remote patient monitoring. Remote patient monitoring uses digital tools to collect medical and other health data and transmit it to a health care provider.
  • MHealth. MHealth refers specifically to health care services delivered via a mobile device.
  • EHealth. EHealth is a catch-all term related to electronic-based health information and services.

William England, a former director of the Office for the Advancement of Telehealth in the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy at Health Resources & Services Administration, an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, says that while many of these terms are still in use, "somewhere in the mid-2000s, we started to call it all telehealth," which has become sort of an overarching term for all health care services that are delivered remotely.

What Services Can Be Provided Via Telehealth?

"Almost anything can be conducted" via a virtual visit , England says.

But certain types of visits may be more amenable to a telehealth model, says Dr. David R. Stukus, associate professor of pediatrics in the division of allergy and immunology at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio. "Visits that don't rely heavily on detailed physical exams or in-office diagnostic testing are optimal for telemedicine. This includes behavioral health, follow-up visits for many chronic medical conditions and new patient visits where a detailed clinical history can provide sufficient information to offer an informed diagnosis and treatment plan."

Chiarelli adds that "the history the patient provides is always one of the most important pieces of a medical visit. With telemedicine, we can still gather all of the history and many important pieces of the examination." Labs, studies, a referral to a specialist or a face-to-face visit may still be necessary later, but that can come after the remote gathering of that important medical history .

Some situations where telehealth can be especially useful include:

  • Follow-up appointments . Primary care and urgent care where the provider is following up a previous visit or checking in with the patient to determine whether more direct care is necessary. If medications are needed, the prescriber may be able to send a prescription directly to your pharmacy.
  • Counseling and education . Services that require counseling and education, such as prenatal care and diabetes management .
  • Medication management . For people with chronic conditions that require prescription medication, such as diabetes or high blood pressure, a routine check-in is often necessary.
  • Behavioral health services . Mental health services and counseling are usually talk-based and typically require no hands-on care from the provider, making these services especially well-suited to remote delivery.
  • Health screening . In the current crisis, a virtual doctor's visit is a smart way to reduce the potential for transmission of infection. Many doctors and health care centers are offering remote screening options for COVID-19 , says Dr. Joseph C. Kvedar, vice president of connected health at Partners HealthCare and a professor of dermatology at Harvard Medical School. "Checking if someone needs the test and following people who are quarantining with mild symptoms is mostly about asking questions," which lends itself well to a telehealth approach, he says. Other health screenings , such as hearing tests for kids and cognitive testing in older adults, may also be offered remotely.
  • Rural specialty care . England says that in some cases, which may be more common in rural settings, the patient will go into the office of their primary care provider and from there will connect via an audio-visual connection with a specialist provider – who may be in another hospital or health care center hundreds of miles away. This approach can extend the reach of providers who can't physically get to more rural locations and enable rural patients to more easily access specialist care at a larger, urban institution.

Dr. Alan H. Beyer, executive medical director of the Hoag Orthopedic Institute in Newport Beach, California, says that in light of the current pandemic, telehealth has been a good option for his practice. "Just because you are at home, injuries and falls can still occur. I've really enjoyed introducing telemedicine into our practice as we try to help patients that may not have a lot of options. It keeps many patients with minor orthopedic injuries out of the ER or urgent care."

It's still possible to collect important information regarding vital signs and other basic health indicators remotely, Stukus says. "A current weight using a typical scale is helpful. We can counsel patients on how to check their heart rate and can count respirations through video. Home blood pressure cuffs have been used for decades, and many adults with chronic conditions already have these available to use, or they can obtain if necessary," he says.

Even dentistry has some partial telehealth options, England says. There are some services that a hygienist can perform "with simple portable equipment that can be taken anywhere," and then a dentist can be patched in to meet with the patient via a video monitor.

Though telehealth is naturally devised for services that don't require a physical examination, there are still options for remote monitoring of patients.

How Devices Can Help

Particularly with diabetes care and monitoring, telehealth can be a good option for many patients, says Kellie Antinori-Lent, a diabetes clinical nurse specialist at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center – Shadyside Hospital and immediate past president of the Association of Diabetes Care & Education Specialists. "Many blood glucose monitors have the capability to upload to the internet," she says, which allows your doctor or diabetes care specialist to keep an eye on your sugar levels remotely.

Other devices such as blood pressure cuffs, digital thermometers and even spirometers (devices that measure air flow for those with asthma , chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or other lung diseases ) "are all relatively inexpensive at the consumer level and can be connected to transmit data electronically," England says. These peripherals can help your doctor get nearly the same amount and quality of information regarding basic health markers as could be gleaned in an office visit.

Who Is Telehealth For?

Telehealth has long been an option for some patients who live in rural areas who would have to travel long distances to be seen in person by a provider. Because of the current COVID-19 pandemic , providers are now able to offer this type of delivery method to many more patients regardless of where they're located. For example, Beyer says that "as an orthopedic surgeon who is limiting practice hours and postponing all elective surgeries due to the virus, we are now seeing some patients via telemedicine." This is primarily being reserved for patients who need a check-up and some post-op visits.

It's not an option for all patients, he says. "New patient visits and certain joint movement problems, for example, are not well done by telemedicine as a physical examination is required. For those patients, we ask them to come into the office," Beyer says.

Is Telehealth Covered by Insurance?

This varies based on where you live and the kind of insurance you have, but during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has expanded virtual services. Many private insurers have also expanded what they'll cover, and many states have relaxed restrictions on reimbursing providers for delivery of remote services.

What Equipment Do I Need?

To get the most out of a remote visit with your doctor or health care provider, ideally you should have the following:

  • A high-speed internet connection.
  • Video access through a smartphone, tablet or computer.
  • Any app used by your provider to connect, which should be downloaded beforehand.
  • A phone, either a mobile phone or a landline if you have one that can be used as a backup option if the internet connection is lost during the virtual visit.

To connect with a doctor for a virtual visit, at a minimum you need a phone, but this is typically considered a phone consultation, not an actual telehealth visit. For a full telehealth visit, providers are looking to connect with you visually. This will require the internet, and a high-speed connection tends to work a lot better than a slower link. "Ideally a faster broadband connection provides a clearer picture without lag," Chiarelli says, "but we can get by with anything that doesn't drop the call."

Stukus agrees. "The connection should be strong enough to stream video, but it doesn't have to be the highest quality or speed available. If you can watch movies through your Wi-Fi connection, you have more than enough to get through a telemedicine visit."

"If you don't have that technology, you can still use the phone" to speak with your doctor, Antinori-Lent says. A phone line can be a good backup option if the video call drops or the technology otherwise doesn't work.

In addition to connecting via the phone or a video platform, "there are dozens of apps that are currently in use for telemedicine," Stukus says. "It's important for each patient to use the one that their personal medical provider is using on their system. They can all be easily accessed and downloaded onto any device."

Before your appointment, check with your provider about their preferred platform and for specific instructions for when and how to access that service. Most medical offices have someone on staff who can walk you through any technical issues you may be having.

How Can I Prepare for a Telehealth Visit?

Here are some tips and suggestions for things you can do ahead of time to help make your virtual visit the best it can be:

  • Make sure your paperwork is filled out. "We still need the same information regarding insurance and any forms normally filled out while sitting in the waiting room," Stukus says. Check with your doctor's office to be sure your paperwork is up-to-date and accurate beforehand.
  • Make sure your doctor has the information they need. Antinori-Lent says it's helpful to make sure that if you're going to be meeting with a provider for routine care, such as diabetes management, you forward your blood sugars and other information the doctor needs prior to the call. That way, the provider can have it in hand and can review it prior to the visit, she says. This saves time and helps focus the call on the most important aspects of managing your chronic condition.
  • Check with your insurance company. Because many rules surrounding telehealth have changed rapidly, it's best to double-check ahead of time with your health insurance provider that the service you're seeking to receive via a telehealth visit will be covered.
  • Prepare like you would for any other appointment. Chiarelli says you should prepare for a virtual visit just like you would any health care appointment by taking a moment to jot down questions you have or symptoms you want to discuss. She also recommends having "any recent home monitoring you have done, such as glucometer readings and blood pressure readings" on hand. It's also important to have a list of medications ready, or better yet, the medicines themselves, Antinori-Lent says. "That way, if you have the video aspect, you can actually show the provider the medication bottles," so that there's no mistaking what you're taking and at what dose.
  • Double-check your equipment. Check to make sure that your equipment is optimized. Check that the volume is up and camera access has been granted to the appropriate application before the call starts. "Make sure you're prepared a couple minutes before the visit so that technological issues don't delay your appointment," Chiarelli says.
  • Have a pen and paper ready. This is "to jot down recommendations the provider might have," Chiarelli says. Though some providers will email you a summary note after the visit, it's also helpful if you have taken your own notes during the call.
  • Think about the setting. Do your best to find a quiet, well-lit corner to have your visit. Don't sit outside, as there's always extra noise and potentially wind noise that will interfere with the call. Sitting outside or in a busy location also compromises the privacy of your visit. Avoid positioning yourself in front of a bright window, as that obscures the view the provider will have of your face. Position your device so that your face is centered in the middle of the screen and the webcam is at eye level, so that your doctor can see your eyes. Use a stand to keep the device still.
  • Consider having someone else join you. Depending on the type of visit you'll be having and what will be discussed, it might be helpful to have a family member sit in on the call with you to help take notes or to raise other concerns with the provider if you forget something.
  • Focus on the session. Just as you would during an office visit, eliminate distractions and interruptions during the virtual visit and give your provider your undivided attention. Shut off notifications on your cell phone and shut down apps that might create distractions or noise.

Stukus says that while it might seem daunting at first or a bit unusual, "once people get past the easy technological hurdles and participate in their first visit, many will prefer these types of visits moving forward."

Antinori-Lent agrees. "I would encourage people to try it. I was a little hesitant too," she says, while adding that telehealth can be a good complement to in-person support. "I have a dietitian colleague who asks to see the box of rice or whatever the patient is talking about. The patient can just walk into the kitchen, and then they look at the label together," she says.

What Happens If I Need More Direct Care?

For visits such as check-ups and post-op care, Beyer says that "if we suspect something is seriously wrong, we will ask the patient to come into the office for an appointment."

Kvedar, a dermatologist, says that for many common skin complaints, he can conduct the necessary visual check via a remote link up. But sometimes there's a question about whether a particular lesion or rash needs to be investigated further. "If they were in front of me, I'd take a skin biopsy right there because that's prudent." But that can't be done in a remote environment. Therefore, he'll set up an in-office appointment for that biopsy.

In other instances, some doctors may refer you to a local urgent care center or emergency department or tell you to call 911. "We want to ensure you stay safe and healthy, so please don't ignore or delay symptoms for which you otherwise would seek care," Chiarelli says.

Concerns about what happens if you end up needing more intensive care than can be provided remotely is "one of the slight challenges" of telehealth, England says. And it's important that the doctor offering the services have "a good handle on local resources where they can send patients," he says. It's a good idea for you to familiarize yourself with local emergency and urgent care resources, too.

What About Privacy and Security?

Despite the urgency of the pandemic that has loosened some restrictions around telehealth services, privacy and protecting your medical information is still a major concern. Your health information is private and should remain so. "We care a lot about privacy," Kvedar says.

"We're not using TikTok or Facebook," Antinori-Lent notes, but platforms like FaceTime, Zoom and Skype are in wide use currently by many providers. "During this crisis, providers are using all kinds of modalities," Kvedar says. Your provider, who may be using a platform designed specifically for telehealth – such as Doxy.me or Teledoc – will let you know which platform they use, and you'll be sent a link and instructions to connect via that system.

"Depending on your relationship with your doctor, you could ask her, 'I like FaceTime. Is that OK with you?'" Kvedar says. The key is to find a means of connection that works for both patient and provider.

Is Telehealth Here to Stay?

It's good to get comfortable with telehealth, as recent findings suggest that virtual visits are indeed here to stay:

  • Only 43% of health centers were capable of providing telemedicine in 2019, compared with the 95% of health centers that used telemedicine during the pandemic, according to this Feb. 2021 Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report .
  • With employee health plans, 53% of large employers expect to implement more virtual care options in 2021, with telehealth as their top initiative.
  • Among hospitals and health care systems, the vast majority – nearly 95% – say that telehealth is a long-term strategy beyond COVID-19, according to the 2020 Telehealth Benchmark Survey .

For her part, Antinori-Lent says that she feels "very strongly about relationship-based care. Human interaction is powerful." She feels there's a certain something that's gained by meeting with someone in person. "The cornerstone of good care is having a relationship with your provider," she adds.

However, telehealth can be a helpful addition to a regular in-person practice and can provide strong continuity of care, particularly in the midst of this pandemic. Meeting with a provider remotely certainly beats not meeting at all.

"It's the next best thing to being there," Antinori-Lent acknowledges. And what's more, "it does allow a level of efficiency – if you need to talk to your doctor about something simple, with telemedicine you can connect a lot more quickly and efficiently. There's also a lot of cost savings and a reduced carbon footprint" associated with not traveling for every doctor's visit.

Some inpatient care is being phased back in as COVID-19 is getting under control. Still, it seems likely that some of these more routine visits will continue to be offered remotely even after the pandemic subsides.

"It'll be interesting to see what happens," England says. "Now that we know that doctors can easily do electronic health calls, what will we expect in the future? It's an exciting time for telehealth and good that we have the technology to do this."

For the time being, Kvedar urges some patience among patients. "Every single software platform and doctor and health service is getting a huge spike in demand, and we're bringing people on these platforms who weren't planning on it." It's a process, and it's going to take a little time until all the kinks get worked out. "I would say, be patient with us. We have your best interests and best care at heart."

Stukus adds that "telemedicine is a fantastic way to provide high level care to patients who live far away, cannot be seen in person for whatever reason. COVID-19 may have accelerated our wide-scale adoption of telemedicine services, but this will not go away once we resume normal activities – it's here to stay."

Where Can I Get More Information?

The National Consortium of Telehealth Resource Centers has created a page of additional information and resources specific to the COVID-19 pandemic to help guide you through any additional questions or concerns you may have regarding telehealth services.

The Hawaii State Department of Health has also created an informative video about telehealth for patients. It provides a thorough overview of what patients can expect from a telehealth visit .

12 Common Medical Emergencies

A concerned middle-aged woman talks on the phone with an older woman in the background.

The U.S. News Health team delivers accurate information about health, nutrition and fitness, as well as in-depth medical condition guides. All of our stories rely on multiple, independent sources and experts in the field, such as medical doctors and licensed nutritionists. To learn more about how we keep our content accurate and trustworthy, read our  editorial guidelines .

Antinori-Lent is a diabetes clinical nurse specialist at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center-Shadyside Hospital, in Pittsburgh. She is also president of the Association of Diabetes Care & Education Specialists.

Beyer is executive medical director of the Hoag Orthopedic Institute in Newport Beach, California.

Chiarelli is a psychiatrist and medical director of behavioral health integration with the Facey Medical Group in Mission Hills, California.

England is director of the Office for the Advancement of Telehealth in the the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy at Health Resources & Services Administration.

Kvedar is vice president of Connected Health at Partners HealthCare and a professor of dermatology at Harvard Medical School. He is also president of the American Telehealth Association.

Stukus is associate professor of pediatrics in the division of allergy and immunology at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio.

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Telehealth: Technology meets health care

See how technology can improve your health care.

How many times have you heard it said that the internet has changed modern life? Indeed, it's likely changed how you stay in touch with family and friends and buy goods and services. And it's probably even changed how you search for information about health problems.

Several telehealth tools are offered to help you manage your health care and receive the services you need. During the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, many people used telehealth. People often still use it. Find out more about telehealth.

What is telehealth?

Telehealth is the use of digital information and communication technologies to access health care services remotely and manage your health care. Technologies can include computers and mobile devices, such as tablets and smartphones. This may be technology you use from home. Or a nurse or other health care professional may provide telehealth from a medical office or mobile van, such as in rural areas. Telehealth can also be technology that your health care provider uses to improve or support health care services.

The goals of telehealth, sometimes called e-health or m-health (mobile health), include the following:

  • Make health care easier to get for people who live in communities that are remote or in the country.
  • Keep you and others safe if you have an infectious disease such as COVID-19.
  • Offer primary care for many conditions.
  • Make services more easily offered or handy for people who have limited ability to move, time or transportation.
  • Offer access to medical specialists.
  • Improve communication and coordination of care among health care team members and a person getting care.
  • Offer advice for self-management of health care.

Many people found telehealth helpful during the COVID-19 pandemic and still use it. Telehealth is being used more often.

Here are many examples of telehealth services that may be helpful for your health care.

Virtual visits

Some clinics may use telemedicine to offer remote care. For example, clinics may offer virtual visits. These can allow you to see a health care provider, mental health counselor or a nurse via online video or phone chats.

Virtual visits can offer care in many conditions such as migraines, skin conditions, diabetes, depression, anxiety, colds, coughs and COVID-19. These visits allow you to get care from a provider when you don't need or can't get an in-person visit.

Before your visit, your health care team may send you information or forms to fill out online and return to them. They may also make sure you have the technology you need. They'll check to see if you need to update or install any software or apps too. And they can tell you how to sign on and join the video chat for your visit. Also, the health care team can explain how to use the microphone, camera and text chat. If needed, ask a family member to help you set up the technology you need.

You only need a smartphone, tablet or computer with internet access to join the virtual visit. You can find a comfortable, quiet, private spot to sit during your visit. Your provider also meets from a private place.

Other options

Some people may use web or phone-based services for medical care or advice. When you log into a web-based service or call a service that offers primary or urgent care, you're guided through many questions. The provider or nurse practitioner can prescribe drugs. Or they may suggest home care tips or more medical care.

While these services are handy, they have drawbacks:

  • Treatment may not be coordinated with your regular provider.
  • Important details from your medical history may not be considered.
  • The computer-driven model used to make decisions may not be right for you if you have a complex medical history.
  • The service doesn't easily allow for you to make decisions with your provider about treatments.

Remote monitoring

Many technologies allow your provider or health care team to check your health remotely. These technologies include:

  • Web-based or mobile apps for uploading data to your provider or health care team. For example, if you have diabetes, you may upload food logs, blood sugar levels and drugs that a nurse checks.
  • Devices that measure and wirelessly send data, such as blood pressure, blood sugar and oxygen levels.
  • Wearable devices that automatically record and send data. For example, the devices may record data such as heart rate, blood sugar, how you walk, your posture, tremors, physical activity or your sleep.
  • Home monitoring devices for older people or people with dementia that can find changes in daily activities such as falls.
  • Devices that send notifications to remind you to do exercises or take drugs.

Providers talking to providers

Providers can also use technology to give people better care. For example, in a virtual consultation, primary care providers can get input from specialists in other locations when they have questions about your diagnosis or treatment.

The primary care provider sends exam notes, history, test results, X-rays or other images to the specialist to review. The specialist may answer by email. Or they may do a virtual visit with you at your provider's office. They may also ask for a face-to-face meeting.

In some cases, a nurse or other health care professional may use technology to provide care from a medical office, clinic or mobile van in a rural area. They may call a specialist or provider at a medical clinic to do a remote consult.

These virtual consultations may prevent unnecessary in-person referrals to a specialist. They may also cut wait times for you to see a specialist. And they may remove the need for you to travel to a specialist.

Patient portal

Your primary care clinic may have an online patient portal. These portals offer a safer way of contacting your provider instead of email. A portal provides a safe online tool to do the following:

  • Message your provider or a nurse.
  • Ask for prescription refills.
  • Review test results and summaries of earlier visits.
  • Schedule visits or ask for appointment reminders for preventive care.

If your provider is in a large health care system, the portal may also provide one point of contact for any specialists you may see.

Personal health apps

Many apps have been made to help people better organize their medical information in one secure place. These digital tools may help you:

  • Store personal health information.
  • Record vital signs.
  • Calculate and track your calories.
  • Schedule reminders for taking drugs.
  • Record physical activity such as your daily step count.
  • Personal health records

An electronic personal health record system (PHR system) is a collection of information about your health that you control and maintain. A PHR app is easy for you to see anytime via a web-enabled device, such as your computer, laptop, tablet or smartphone. A PHR also allows you to review your lab results, X-rays and notes from your provider. Your provider may give this to other providers with permission.

In an emergency, a personal health record can quickly give emergency staff vital information. For example, it can show your current conditions, drugs, drug allergies and your provider's contact details.

The potential of telehealth

Technology has the potential to improve the quality of health care. And technology can make it easier for more people to get health care.

Telehealth may offer ways to make health care more efficient, better coordinated and closer to home. You can go to a virtual visit anywhere — such as at home or in your car. And you don't need to travel to go to a virtual visit.

Telehealth can be useful so you can stay home if you're sick or if it's hard for you to travel. And you can use telehealth if you live far from a medical center. And many people have been able to keep distance from others at home and still receive care during the COVID-19 pandemic. And providers can diagnose and treat COVID-19 remotely.

Virtual visits can also provide you with the choice to meet with specialists who don't live where you do.

The limitations of telehealth

Telehealth has potential for better coordinated care. But it also runs the risk of gaps in care, overuse of medical care, inappropriate drug use or unnecessary care. Providers can't do a physical exam in-person, which can affect a diagnosis.

The potential benefits of telehealth services may be limited by other factors, such as costs. Insurance reimbursement for telehealth can vary by state and type of insurance in the U.S. But insurance keeps expanding for telehealth services in the U.S. And during the COVID-19 pandemic, insurance restrictions changed for a period of time. Check with your insurance company to see which providers have virtual visits covered by insurance.

Also, some people who need improved access to care may be limited because of not having internet access or a mobile device. People without internet access may be able to access telehealth services by using wireless internet offered at public places. For example, libraries or community centers may offer wireless internet for virtual visits that can take place in private rooms.

Sometimes technology doesn't work well. It's important to have a plan with your provider to call them by phone if there is an issue with the virtual visit.

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  • Telehealth. National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering. https://www.nibib.nih.gov/science-education/science-topics/telehealth. Accessed May 6, 2022.
  • What is telehealth? Telehealth.HHS.gov. https://telehealth.hhs.gov/patients/understanding-telehealth/. Accessed May 6, 2022.
  • Ong MK, et al. Telemedicine for adults. https://www.uptodate.com/contents/search. Accessed May 5, 2022.
  • Doraiswamy S, et al. Use of telehealth during the COVID-19 pandemic: Scoping review. Journal of Medical Internet Research. 2020; doi:10.2196/24087.
  • Brotman JJ, et al. Providing outpatient telehealth services in the United States: Before and during coronavirus disease 2019. Chest Reviews. 2021; doi:10.1016/j.chest.2020.11.020.
  • Telehealth: Defining 21st century care. The American Telemedicine Association. https://www.americantelemed.org/resource/why-telemedicine/. Accessed May 6, 2022.
  • Mahtta D, et al. Promises and perils of telehealth in the current era. Current Cardiology Reports. 2021; doi:10.1007/s11886-021-01544-w.
  • AskMayoExpert. COVID-19: Outpatient management. Mayo Clinic; 2021.
  • Tapuria A, et al. Impact of patient access to their electronic health record: Systematic review. 2021; doi:10.1080/17538157.2021.1879810.
  • Takahashi PY (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic. May 9, 2022.

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Best Online Doctors

MDLIVE is our top choice for the best online doctor

The rise in online doctors has made health care more accessible and affordable across the country. There are times when seeing a doctor face-to-face is necessary, but remote care is a great option for non-emergency medical concerns, such as colds, generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), and online therapy. Plus, telehealth helps free up in-person healthcare facilities, making it easier for severely sick patients to be seen by doctors promptly.

With so many telehealth options available, it can be challenging to know which virtual provider is right for you. Before you start your search, consider your symptoms, how often you’ll need care, your budget, and what your insurance—if you have health coverage —will and won't cover. To help you determine the telehealth services for your needs, we've compiled a list of the best online doctors available throughout the United States.

Best Online Doctors of 2024

  • Best Overall: MDLIVE
  • Best for Pregnancy: Maven
  • Best for the LGBTQ+ Community: Folx Health
  • Best for Pediatric Care: Blueberry Pediatrics
  • Best for Psychiatry: Teladoc
  • Best for Comprehensive Care: Doctor On Demand
  • Best for Flexible Care Options: Sesame
  • Best for the Uninsured: HealthTap
  • Best for Affordable Care: LiveHealth Online
  • Best Medication Refills: PlushCare
  • Best Nutritionist: Tepper Nutrition
  • Our Top Picks

Folx Health

Blueberry Pediatrics

  • Doctor On Demand

LiveHealth Online

Tepper Nutrition

  • See More (8)

Final Verdict

  • Compare Providers
  • How To Choose

Methodology

Best overall : mdlive.

  • Price: Urgent care $0 to $82, behavioral health $0 to $284, dermatology $0 to $95
  • Accepts Insurance: Yes
  • Platform: Phone, web browser, and app

MDLIVE is an easy-to-use platform that allows you to schedule appointments within minutes. The service provides care for more than 80 different conditions across urgent care, mental health, and dermatology.

Accepts several insurance plans

Provides care for more than 80 conditions

Licensed physicians available 24/7

Responsive hotline for questions or concerns

Offers medication management services

Can be expensive without insurance

Doesn’t provide care for certain issues

MDLIVE offers on-demand specialists for urgent care, a transparent fee structure, and live support for illnesses, injuries, mental health concerns, and hair, skin, and nail conditions. You can speak with healthcare providers via phone, computer, or app-based appointments. It's important to note that the service provides urgent care for both children and adults, but for primary care, it sees patients only if they're older than 18.

To use MDLIVE, simply go to its website and create an account. Once you’re registered, you can input your insurance information to see if your plan is accepted. From there, you can search through providers and schedule an appointment. The medical doctors are available 24/7, but you may encounter a wait.

MDLIVE’s pricing varies based on the type of care you need and your insurance if you have any.

  • Urgent care: These visits cost up to $82 and include care for non-emergency medical concerns.
  • Behavioral health: Talk therapy or psychotherapy can cost up to $108, while psychiatry visits can cost up to $284 for the first visit. There is care for depression, anxiety, and more.
  • Dermatology: These visits can cost up to $95 and offer care for warts, eczema, and other skin, hair, and nail issues.

MDLIVE accepts insurance plans from Humana, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Cigna, and Independence, plus some Medicaid and Medicare plans. You also can use a flexible spending account (FSA) or a health savings account (HSA) to pay for your visit.

While MDLIVE is a great option, it does not offer a subscription plan or free consultations. However, you may be able to find a discount code online.

Best for Pregnancy : Maven

  • Price: Starts at $20 per appointment
  • Accepts Insurance : No
  • Platform: Web browser and app

Maven is our top choice for pregnant people because of its affordable cost and comprehensive care. With medical experts from more than 30 different specialties, Maven is a great option for those who wish to become parents, as well as expectant and postpartum parents.

Focuses on family planning services and pregnancy care

Experts from 30+ different specialties

Offers care in over 35 different languages

Supports LGBTQ+ community

Flexible app platform for on-the-go appointments 

Features large resource library

Doesn't accept insurance 

No live chat customer service

No refunds for day-of cancellations

Maven is a great option for expectant parents due to its wide range of specialty care, affordable costs, and easy-to-navigate platforms. The telehealth service employs fertility specialists, certified sleep coaches, nutritionists, midwives, and more. From prenatal care to labor and delivery to postpartum support, Maven provides pregnant people and their families with the help they need.

It’s important to note that Maven is not a replacement for your in-person OB-GYN or primary care provider. Rather, it’s a great way to receive care quickly and more efficiently from home as a supplement to in-person appointments. Maven provides you with a care advocate that can help you find an in-person provider when needed.

Signing up for an account with Maven is as easy as creating a username and answering a few simple questions. You can browse the available specialists and choose which type of provider you need—or let Maven match you with the right doctor. From there, you can book an appointment at a time that works best for you.

Maven’s pricing varies depending on the type of care needed and the provider’s level of experience. Maven calls shorter visits “education-only appointments” because you can get answers to general questions but can’t receive a diagnosis, treatment, or medication. Appointments allowing treatment and medication are available with Maven providers who are licensed in your state.

  • Doulas, lactation consultants, nutritionists, and physical therapists: A video appointment with any of these specialists costs around $25 for a 20-minute appointment.
  • Nurse practitioners and midwives: These services cost $20 for 10-minute video appointments.
  • Physicians (OB/GYNS, pediatricians, etc.): Video appointments with any of these healthcare providers cost $40 for a 10-minute session.
  • Reproductive endocrinologists: A video call with a reproductive endocrinologist costs $75 for a 15-minute appointment.
  • Psychiatric nurse practitioners: This type of visit costs $90 for a 30-minute video call. 
  • Mental health providers: For your first week only, 10-minute video calls cost $20. Then, 40-minute appointments cost $70 with master's-level therapists and $120 with doctorate-level therapists.
  • Coaches: Video calls with coaches cost $50 per 30-minute session. 

Unfortunately, insurance isn't accepted. However, some employers offer Maven as part of their benefits packages. You can also use HSA and FSA funds to pay for your visits.

Best for the LGBTQ+ Community : Folx Health

  • Price: Starts at $59 per visit
  • Accepts Insurance: No
  • Platform: Web browser

As the first transgender-specific telehealth platform, Folx Health offers care to LGBTQ+ individuals in a compassionate and supportive manner. The service offers care for sexual well-being, family planning, and hormone replacement therapy.

Subscriptions for hormone replacement therapy

Includes a virtual library of supportive resources

Staffed by expert clinicians who specialize in LGBTQ+ care

Provides one-on-one consultations

Currently available in only 38 states and D.C.

Does not accept insurance

Can only treat people over 18

Launched in December 2020, this up-and-coming service provides a safe and supportive platform exclusively for the LGBTQ+ community. Folx Health's model focuses on giving you control of your health and wellness—and the freedom to access expert care, no matter where you are. Folx Health helps patients with fertility, gender consultation, nutrition, sex, and more, plus it supplies medication for pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), erectile dysfunction (ED) meds, estrogen, and testosterone.

To get started, you can either customize a subscription plan based on your needs or schedule a one-time visit with an experienced provider. Although Folx is available in only 38 states and Washington, D.C., its services and locations continue to expand. Folx doesn’t accept insurance, as it wants the costs to be as transparent as possible; however, you can choose to pay with an FSA/HSA card.

Primary care visits cost $59, while the price of prescription plans varies depending on the type of medication.

  • Clinician visit: Online doctor visits for the LGBTQ+ community cost $59 per visit.
  • Estrogen subscription plans: The New Start/Restart plan for estrogen costs $119 a month and is for anyone who has been on hormone replacement therapy for less than one year. The maintenance plan costs $59 per month and is meant for those in their second year or more of HRT. Both plans include automatic refills, lab testing, free shipping, virtual visits, and expert consultation.
  • Testosterone subscription plans: The New Start/Restart plan for testosterone costs $139 per month, while the maintenance plan costs $89 per month. These plans have the same perks as the estrogen plan.
  • PrEP plan: This pre-exposure prophylaxis plan includes a three-month supply of daily HIV prevention pills for $90 a month.

Best for Pediatric Care : Blueberry Pediatrics

  • Price: $15 to $20 per month, plus cost of medical kit
  • Platform: Web browser, phone, text, and app

Blueberry Pediatrics has affordable memberships, board-certified pediatric doctors, and 24/7 availability—even on holidays. 

24/7 access to board-certified pediatricians

Visits take 15 minutes or less

Can prescribe medication and order labs

Text option for support any time of day

Memberships include at-home medical kit

Doesn't accept insurance

One-time $100 fee to purchase a medical kit

Can provide care in only 18 states

Blueberry Pediatrics is a telehealth service that provides comprehensive pediatric care to children younger than 21 years old. The company has board-certified pediatricians available 24/7 via web browser, phone, or app, plus its memberships come with at-home medical kits that include an ear infection kit, finger pulse oximeter, and digital oral thermometer for accurate diagnosis and treatment.

Memberships include all children in your family at no additional cost, and there are no limits on how many times you can message the team. With 24/7 text support, you can ask the Blueberry Pediatrics team medical questions and receive a response within minutes. The staff can prescribe medications and send them to a pharmacy of your choice, and send medical information to your primary pediatrician to keep records up to date.

The website and app are both very easy to use. After answering a few questions about your child's symptoms, you'll be connected with a pediatrician in a matter of minutes. Blueberry Pediatrics serves 18 states: Alabama, Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Michigan, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Utah, Tennessee, Texas, and Wisconsin. 

Blueberry Pediatrics offers a monthly and an annual membership plan; you'll save money if you choose the annual plan.

  • Monthly membership: This costs $20 a month for 24/7 access to board-certified pediatricians. When you sign up, you’ll also pay a one-time fee of $100 for the medical kit.
  • Annual membership: At $180, the annual membership saves you $60 each year compared to the monthly plan. This membership also requires a one-time fee of $100 for the medical kit.

Because of its already low-cost membership, Blueberry Pediatrics doesn't accept insurance. You can, however, pay using an HSA or FSA card.

Best for Psychiatry : Teladoc

  • Price: Therapy $0 to $99, psychiatry $0 to $299, medical care $0 to $75
  • Accepts Insurance : Yes
  • Platform: Web browser, phone, and app

Whether you need therapy or psychiatric services, Teladoc offers convenient access to board-certified physicians who specialize in a variety of mental health conditions. Plus, the app makes scheduling easy with click-to-talk capabilities on your phone.

Offers appointments seven days a week

All therapists and psychiatrists are licensed

Option to choose which doctor you'd like to see

Medication management provided for some conditions

Available in the US, Canada, and internationally

No subscription plans or packages available

Doesn’t offer couples, group, or family therapy

Psychiatric services can be expensive without insurance

Teladoc provides a quick and easy option for psychiatric services, whether you need therapy or medication management. Focusing on a whole-body approach to care, Teladoc offers comprehensive mental health services from board-certified doctors seven days a week. It also offers primary care, dermatology, and nutrition services.

To create your account, enter standard information, such as your name, birthdate, and ZIP code. Next, you’ll be prompted to enter any insurance information, which will help give you a general idea of the cost. Once registered, you can search for a doctor and schedule an appointment right from your phone.

Teladoc's pricing isn't as accessible as other platforms, mainly due to its customized approach. Here are the price ranges available on the site:

  • Therapy session: Appointments can cost between $0 and $99, depending on what your insurance covers.
  • Psychiatric visit: Your first visit can range from $0 to $299 and follow-up appointments cost up to $119.
  • Medical care: General medical services cost between $0 and $75 per appointment, depending on insurance.

Teladoc accepts insurance, including some Medicare Advantage plans, but you must set up an account to view specific coverage options. It doesn't offer subscription plans or free consults.

Best for Comprehensive Care : Doctor On Demand

Doctor on Demand

  • Price: Medical care $75 per visit, mental health care $129 to $299 per visit

Doctor On Demand provides care for a broad assortment of issues. Patients can use the service for mental health care, preventive care, urgent care, chronic issues, and more. As well, coverage is available for both adults and children.

24/7 access to medical and mental health care

Offers medication management

Accepts many insurance plans

Services offered to adults and children

No subscription plans or discounts

Therapy availability varies by state

Can be expensive without insurance coverage

Doctor On Demand has been providing excellent service to patients around the country since 2013. The company offers a comprehensive lineup of services including urgent care, mental health, preventive health, and chronic care. From weight management to acute illness and stress, you'll find everything you need on one platform.

Doctor On Demand makes scheduling simple through its app and web portal, and it has appointments available within minutes. In the web portal, you can schedule with a certain provider or select the next available appointment. The app is user-friendly and walks you through the entire process from initial account creation to insurance and scheduling. Plus, you're able to check your coverage before scheduling a visit.

Doctor on Demand’s pricing varies based on the type of appointment and your benefits.

  • Medical care: $75 for a 15-minute appointment
  • Psychology: $129 for a 25-minute therapy sessions; $179 for a 50-minute session 
  • Psychiatry: $299 for initial 25-minute consultation; $129 for 15-minute follow-up sessions

One plus of going through a service like Doctor On Demand is that you can use your insurance benefits. The company accepts a long list of commercial health plans as well as some Medicare plans. If you need comprehensive treatment in a hurry, this telehealth service has you covered.

Best for Flexible Care Options : Sesame

  • Price: Varies depending on location and provider
  • Accepts Insurance: No for appointments; yes for medication

With thousands of doctors available, Sesame is perfect for those seeking flexible, affordable care. It offers a wide variety of services, including dental care, skin consultations, therapy, sexual health care, and more.

Easily view available physicians, wait times, and costs

Works with doctors across more than 80 specialties

Optional cost-saving monthly membership available

Affordable prices without insurance

Accepts HSA and FSA payments

In-person clinics only available in some states

Insurance coverage only for medication

Must pay for appointment at the time of booking

Sesame was founded in 2018, and it offers affordable care to those with or without insurance across the country. As a superstore for health care, the telehealth service provides flexible care both virtually and in-person with experts specializing in more than 80 conditions. You can find providers for urgent care, prescription refills, mental health support, dermatology , dental care, and more.

The website is easy to navigate and up-to-date. Sesame has in-person services in some states, but its virtual appointments (usually video calls) are what the company is known for. To see available providers near you, simply select your location in the upper-righthand corner. From there, it's simple to select whether you're looking for in-person, telehealth, or prescription services. Everything from basic scheduling to prescription refills is available through its platform.

Sesame’s pricing varies depending on your needs and chosen provider. Costs are reasonable and outlined clearly on the website and app, which makes it easy to find exactly what you're looking for. To save money on the already affordable service, a Sesame Plus membership costs $11 per month and includes a free annual lab test and discounts on select medical services. However, you don’t need to be a member to use Sesame.

Sesame doesn't accept insurance, but users are able to view pricing for each board-certified physician before booking an appointment with them. If you're looking for high-quality, flexible care, Sesame is a great choice.

Best for the Uninsured : HealthTap

  • Price: $99 per visit (or copay); $15 monthly memberships for $44 primary care visits and $59 urgent care visits (or copay)

Offering primary and urgent care with upfront pricing, HealthTap is a great choice for those looking for affordable telehealth appointments. It has a monthly subscription option that includes exclusive discounts and perks, making it a cost-saving option for those without insurance.

Has upfront pricing

Membership includes Talkspace discount

Can have the same primary care doctor for every visit

Features a free library with physician-answered questions

Prescription costs not included with membership

Doesn’t offer mental health care

Founded in 2010, HealthTap offers low-cost appointments for people without insurance. The telehealth service provides 24/7 urgent and primary care to children and adults via text or video. The board-certified doctors can diagnose, prescribe medication, order lab tests, and give referral recommendations.

HealthTap's app is extremely user-friendly, allowing you to easily book appointments, request refills, contact your doctor, and message other members of your care team—all through your smartphone. It even features a free library of questions from other patients and answers from its community of doctors, so you can learn more about topics outside of appointments.

HealthTap has two membership options:

  • HealthTap Prime: For $15 a month, this subscription membership offers primary care appointments for $44 per visit (or your insurance copay) and urgent care appointments for $59 per visit (or your insurance copay). This plan includes 24/7 access to on-demand care, $100 off online therapy visits with Talkspace, your choice of primary care doctor, and more. 
  • HealthTap Basic: This plan doesn’t have a monthly fee. Visits are $99 each (or your insurance copay). 

HealthTap accepts more than 100 insurance plans including Anthem Blue Cross, Aetna, UnitedHealthcare, and Cigna, plus HSA and FSA funds. With affordable appointments for children and adults, HealthTap is a great choice for those without insurance.

Best for Affordable Care : LiveHealth Online

  • Price: Medical and allergy appointments up to $59 per visit, psychology sessions up to $95, psychiatry visits $75 to $175
  • Platform: Web browser or app

LiveHealth Online offers telehealth appointments for medical, allergy, psychology, and psychiatry care, with medical visits averaging at just $59—no subscription required. Plus, it accepts several insurance plans.

Affordable appointments

No monthly fees

You choose your doctor

Provides care for children

24/7 access to medical and allergy care

No live chat support on the website

Health care doesn’t come cheap, but, luckily, LiveHealth Online offers inexpensive care for those with or without insurance. It’s free to sign up, doesn’t have any subscription fees, and you know the price of the visit before you commit to an appointment. LiveHealth Online has four types of services: medical, allergy, psychology, and psychiatry.

The website is basic and straightforward. It features an easy sign-up form that asks for only essential information like your name, email, and password. After you sign up, you can scroll through available board-certified doctors and view their ratings to help you choose one that fits your needs. Unfortunately, there isn't a live chat option on the website, so if you have any questions, you have to reach out via email or telephone.

LiveHealth Online has four different services and its pricing depends on your type of care and insurance coverage. You easily can see what your appointment will cost on the company’s website.

  • Medical: Medical appointments cost $59 without insurance and might cost less if your health plan is in-network.
  • Allergy: Rates are the same as for medical appointments.
  • Psychology: Without insurance, therapist visits are $80 and psychologist visits are $95. They might cost less if you have insurance.
  • Psychiatry: Your first appointment is $175. Follow-up sessions are $75 without insurance. They might cost less if you have insurance.

LiveHealth Online doesn't offer any free services, consultations, memberships, or subscriptions. Its upfront pricing makes it an affordable choice for those in need of quick solutions for ailments like pink eye, rashes, or tooth pain . Though somewhat basic, LiveHealth Online is extremely budget-friendly.

Best Medication Refills : PlushCare

  • Price: $15 per month or $99 per year, plus $129 for the first visit and $69 for all repeat visits or insurance copay

As a PlushCare member, you can see a board-certified doctor and get medication refills sent to your pharmacy in as little as 15 minutes. The company offers a variety of services, but its quick online prescriptions are the cream of the crop.

Same-day appointments available in just 15 minutes

Hires doctors from top U.S. medical institutions

Accepts insurance and HSA/FSA payments

Offers four different types of care

Must pay a membership fee to use

Cost is higher than other telehealth options

Since 2015, PlushCare has been a leading provider of telemedicine in the United States. Its services are available 24/7 and include primary care, urgent care, mental health, and therapy. With affordable pricing and low wait times, PlushCare makes it easy to get medication refills on prescriptions—like birth control, antidepressants, and diabetes medications—sent to your local pharmacy.

Before ever creating an account, you can find available doctors and appointment times on PlushCare’s website and mobile app. You can view a physician's background, ratings, and reviews—and then make your selection. Once you become a member, getting started is easy; just enter the requested information into the form and book an appointment.

PlushCare has two membership options:

  • Monthly: Monthly membership is $15 a month. The first visit costs $129 with follow-up appointments costing $69, if not insured, or your insurance copay.
  • Annual: For $99 a year, this membership is the best value. Appointment fees are the same, but you save $81 in membership fees.

While the membership fee may be a drawback to some, the ease of getting medication refills sent quickly can be worth it. As a bonus, memberships include unlimited messaging with your online care team as well as same-day appointment options.

Best Nutritionist : Tepper Nutrition

  • Price: $170 to $220 for the initial appointment

The registered dietitians at Tepper Nutrition use an overall lifestyle approach for each client, whether you have food allergies, sensitivities, or other chronic conditions that can be improved through nutrition, or just want to develop a more positive relationship with food and eating.

Has sliding scale rates

Consultations available Monday through Friday

Offers retreats, workshops, and nutrition courses

Weight-neutral, anti-diet values

In-person consultations only available in Virginia and Washington, D.C.

Virtual consultations only available in 13 states and D.C.

Tepper Nutrition offers one-on-one nutrition therapy and coaching to those facing a wide range of concerns, including eating disorders, Crohn’s disease, IBS, high cholesterol, allergies, celiac disease, type 1 and type 2 diabetes, PCOS, and more, plus services for pediatric, prenatal, and postpartum nutrition. The practice teaches clients to create lifestyle changes using non-diet, weight-inclusive Health At Every Size® principles.

Depending on your location and preferences, you will meet with your dietitian either in person or virtually. There are two clinics in the state of Virginia (located in Alexandria and Leesburg) and one in Washington, D.C. The practice also offers telemedicine appointments to clients who live in those two areas and in Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, North Carolina, Texas, Utah, and West Virginia. 

Price is per session:

  • An initial 60-minute consultation costs $195 out of pocket. Your provider will ask questions about your medical history, lifestyle, sleep habits, stress level, daily schedule, what you tend to eat, and other factors that may contribute to your current concerns.
  • 90-minute follow-up sessions are $160. Sliding scale payment plans are available to some clients on a case-by-case basis. The company can provide a superbill to submit to your insurer for out-of-network coverage.

Tepper Nutrition also offers a weight-inclusive, self-guided intuitive eating program, Beyond the Fork ($349–$499), as well as occasional yoga retreats and nutrition workshops at varying prices.

Overall, MDLIVE stands out thanks to its affordability and user-friendly features. Book a virtual appointment with a board-certified doctor within minutes of signing up—no matter what time it is. Plus, you can get prescriptions sent directly to your local pharmacy, use insurance, and pay with FSA/HSA funds. In addition, the customer support team is available 24/7 to handle any issues along the way.

Compare the Best Online Doctors

Guide for choosing the best online doctor, what is an online doctor.

An online doctor can be thought of as a modern take on the traditional general practitioner (GP). Online doctors aren't a replacement for your in-person primary care physician (PCP), but they are a smart solution for individuals and families to have flexible urgent, medical, and mental health care readily available via a computer, phone, or app.

Is an Online Doctor Right for You? 

Online doctors are a convenient option when you need flexible care. Since virtual appointments are conducted via the internet, you can book visits at any time of day—plus, you don't have to leave your couch for your appointment. Many online doctors can prescribe medication, order lab work, and provide referrals.

While virtual appointments may be appropriate for mild illness or injury, not every condition qualifies for online care. Seek emergency assistance at the nearest hospital if you're experiencing chest pain, seizures, difficulty breathing, or suicidal ideation.

Comparing Online Doctors

Not every online doctor offers the same services. Do your research before choosing a virtual doctor and consider your preferences carefully. Some factors to weigh include:

  • Cost: Telehealth costs vary greatly, so it's important to understand the pricing structure and fees of your chosen online doctor.
  • Services: Some virtual clinics offer only urgent care, while others provide ongoing primary care and mental health support.
  • Insurance: Many online doctors accept some insurance plans. If you plan to use insurance, you'll want to ensure your chosen online doctor accepts your plan first.
  • Availability in your state: Availability varies by provider and state. Check the website of your chosen doctor to understand which locations they serve. It's especially important to research location availability if you're seeking mental health services.
  • Platforms: Web browsers and apps are the most popular ways to connect with online doctors, but some providers offer services via phone calls or texting. Know what type of device you plan to use and check that your preferred online doctor supports it.
  • Discounts or cost-saving options: Discount codes, membership plans, subscriptions, and free consultations can help you save money—especially if you don't have insurance.
  • Reviews from other patients: Hearing firsthand experiences from other patients provides valuable insight into whether or not your needs will be met by your chosen online doctor.
  • FSA/HSA: Having the ability to pay using a flexible spending account or a health savings account could help lower costs. Check to make sure they accept these forms of payment if you plan to use them.

Scheduling an Appointment with an Online Doctor

Once you've chosen an online doctor service, you'll likely be asked to create an account before booking an appointment. This helps keep your medical information in a safe, secure, and organized location for you and your provider.

Once your account is set up, you should be able to choose an available provider and time based on your preference. If you're new to online care, it may be helpful to speak to a representative via online chat or phone. If your chosen online doctor accepts insurance, you'll input this information to give you a better idea of the cost before booking an appointment.

Some common questions you may be asked:

  • Personal Medical History
  • Current medications
  • Family history
  • Reason for visit

Most platforms are user-friendly; however, if you're not sure how to book an appointment, you can call the number provided on the contact page for assistance.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the different types of online doctors.

There are a variety of online doctors who provide a range of services. Many offer acute care for mild symptoms or illnesses, while others specialize in managing chronic diseases and promoting wellness. There also are some providers who offer only urgent care. You'll find board-certified physicians, OB-GYNs, pediatricians, and even mental health therapists and psychiatrists among online doctors.

What Are the Benefits of Using an Online Doctor?

Using online doctors ensures convenience, flexibility, and privacy. They also offer quick and easy access to care, allowing you to see a medical professional and get the help you or your family needs quicker than most in-person clinics.

When Should You Not See an Online Doctor?

Online doctors aren't meant for emergency visits. If you're having a medical emergency such as chest pain or difficulty breathing, please call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room immediately.

Can Online Doctors Prescribe Medication?

Yes. Many online doctors prescribe medications to treat mild to moderate medical conditions, but they can’t prescribe controlled substances, such as opioids (codeine, morphine, Oxycontin), sedatives (Ambien, Lunesta, Sonata), stimulants (Adderall, Concerta, Ritalin, Vyvanse), and certain anxiety medications (Ativan, Klonopin, Valium, Xanax). Depending on the provider, they may prescribe antibiotics, birth control, antidepressants, or other prescriptions.

What Do I Do If I See an Online Doctor And Need a Lab Test?

Many online providers partner with local labs that offer convenient appointment times, locations, and results. However, most lab services are an additional cost—unless otherwise noted. Still, some online doctors don't have the capability of ordering these tests.

We looked at dozens of online doctors to determine which ones offer all-encompassing features at affordable prices. Our primary focus was on cost, payment options, insurance, appointment scheduling, and convenience. We also took consumer reviews into consideration to determine how user-friendly the platform is, as well as overall satisfaction scores.

Lastly, we considered which providers offered more than the traditional online doctor services. Those with 24/7 availability, prescription drug options, and even lab tests were highly regarded. In the end, we based our rankings on the total value provided by each online doctor platform.

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Koma W. Medicare and telehealth: coverage and use during the COVID-19 pandemic and options for the future . Kaiser Family Foundation.

Center for Connected Health Policy. Compare state policies .

By Lindsay Modglin Lindsay is a nurse-turned professional health and wellness writer with 9+ years of clinical healthcare experience.

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Medicare Part B (Medical Insurance)  covers E-visits with your doctors and certain other health care providers.

Your costs in Original Medicare

After you meet the Part B deductible , you pay 20% of the  Medicare-approved amount  for your doctor's or other provider's services.

E-visits allow you to talk to your doctor or other health care provider using an online patient portal to answer quick questions or decide if you need to schedule a visit.

You can get an E-visit with:

  • Nurse practitioners
  • Clinical nurse specialists
  • Physician assistants
  • Licensed clinical social workers (in specific circumstances)
  • Clinical psychologists (in specific circumstances)

E-visits can be used for the treatment for the Coronavirus (COVID-19) from anywhere, including places of residence (like homes, nursing homes, and assisted living facilities).

Things to know

  • To get an e-visit, you must request one with your doctor or other provider.
  • Medicare also covers virtual check-ins and Medicare telehealth .

Is my test, item, or service covered?

Million Heats logo

“Live to the Beat” Campaign Toolkit

Educational videos, pulse check, stories from the heart, print materials, social media graphics.

  • Community Ambassador Network
  • Other Ways to Share Content

Live to the Beat eSignature

Million Hearts ®  collaborated with the  CDC Foundation  to develop the “Live to the Beat” campaign, which aims to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) among Black adults ages 35 to 54.

The campaign encourages people to take small steps to address key risk factors like hypertension ,  high cholesterol , and  high blood sugar .

This online toolkit includes user-friendly materials and resources you can use to educate and equip your audiences to practice heart-healthy habits that can help lower their risk for heart disease and stroke.

Please join us in sharing these lifesaving messages. From videos and social media graphics to interactive resources and printable materials, you can find the resources that work best for you and your audiences.

These Live to the Beat: “Right Ways” and “On Rhythm” public service announcements (PSAs) feature motivating messages to encourage people to find a way that works for them to take heart-healthy steps—to their own beat. These videos can be viewed by clicking on the links below, or they can be downloaded from Dropbox .

Right Ways videos screenshot image.

How to Use These: Place these as TV PSAs or ads (locally, regionally or nationally); Use as videos embedded on your website, posted on your social media channels or shared via your communication channels; Feature the videos in presentations or at community events.

  • Live to the Beat “Right Ways”:60
  • Live to the Beat “Right Ways”:30
  • Live to the Beat “Vegetables”:15
  • Live to the Beat “Swimming”:15
  • Live to the Beat “Restaurant”:15
  • Live to the Beat “Working Out”:15
  • Live to the Beat “On Rhythm” :60
  • Live to the Beat “On Rhythm” :30
  • Live to the Beat “On Rhythm” :15

KevonStage video screenshot image.

“Live to the Beat” with KevOnStage

This 7-episode video series features Kevin Fredericks, AKA “KevOnStage” as he interviews a number of experts including doctors, wellness professionals and everyday people. The videos cover topics like getting active, eating healthy, working with a doctor, managing stress, and understanding risk factors.

How to Use These: Use as videos embedded on your website, posted on your social media channels or shared via your communication channels; Feature the videos in presentations or at community events; Host a viewing party to review/discuss the episodes.

  • Episode 1 – KevOnTheDoc
  • Episode 2 – Age is Just a Number
  • Episode 3 – You Get it From Yo Mamma
  • Episode 4 – Outta Sight, Outta Mind
  • Episode 5 – Too Much Sauce
  • Episode 6 – Ain’t Nobody Got Time for That
  • Episode 7 – Finding Your Rhythm

Animated Educational Videos

Educational videos screenshot image.

These videos help to explain how certain risk factors and prevention strategies can affect your cardiovascular health.

How to Use These: Use as videos embedded on your website, posted on your social media channels or shared via your communication channels; Feature the videos in presentations or at community events.

  • Watch Out for Sneaky Sodium – explains the effects that sodium has on the body
  • Move More for a Healthy Heart – explains how physical activity can have a positive impact on your heart health
  • Keep Your Cholesterol in Check – explains the impact healthy eating can have on controlling your cholesterol
  • Rx for a Healthy Heart – explains how you may need medicine to take control of your blood pressure or cholesterol

Pulse Check video screenshot image.

Share the Pulse Check, a digital interactive roadmap on LivetotheBeat.org/PulseCheck , to help your audiences learn all about small, heart-healthy steps and customize their own journey with tips, content, and quizzes. They can add to the fun by earning points and badges as they boost their knowledge along the way.

Stories from the Heart video screenshot image.

These inspiring stories feature everyday people who have found ways to take heart-healthy small steps, in some cases after experiencing a cardiovascular event themselves. You share them directly from social media (see links below) or you can read them in the dedicated section on the Live to the Beat Media page . If you, or someone you know, experienced a cardiovascular event, such as a stroke or heart attack or have made a lifestyle change to improve your heart health, we’d love to hear about it. To learn more about Stories from the Heart features, or share your heart health story, visit bit.ly/lttbstoriesfromtheheart  today!

  • Tara Robinson
  • James Young
  • ShantaQuillette Carter Williams
  • Bernadette L. Harris
  • Kayanna Scott

How to Use These: Share stories on your social media channels.

Live to the Beat!

These print materials are available in various formats and sizes. They include a general message about how people can “Live to the Beat” and find their own rhythm to better heart health.

How to Use These: . Display posters, flyers or table tents in your building; Distribute flyers or postcards at your event; Use the materials as an ad for a print publication.

  • Flyer and poster creative in two sizes: 8.5″×11″ and 11″×17″.
  • Campaign postcards with two themes, highlighting specific steps to lower risk for heart disease all are sized at 4”x6”.
  • Pulse Check postcards are available, also sized at 4”x6”.
  • Table tents, which are 3D versions of the flyer and postcard art, are sized at 5”x7”.
  • Download the files from Dropbox

Get moving, start simple, help your heart. Live to the beat!

The campaign features a variety of graphics to promote key heart-healthy messages on social media and in digital communications.

How to Use These: Share graphics on your social media channels; Include graphics in your digital communication channels (e.g., e-newsletter, website, intranet).

Join the Community Ambassador Network

Collage of photos of smiling Black men and women.

We invite you to join and spread the word about an exclusive network of trusted leaders, organizations, and businesses in the Black community to help us empower more adults to live their healthiest lives. As a “Live to the Beat” Community Ambassador, you can help those in your community lower their risk for heart disease and stroke. As an Ambassador, you would:

  • Share heart-healthy messages and resources with your community.
  • Promote sweepstakes where your audiences can win cool prizes for taking healthy steps.
  • Gain national recognition and a chance to earn prizes of your own.

Visit bit.ly/communityambassadorsnetwork to express interest and check out the Live to the Beat catalog of resources [PDF – 1 MB] .

Don’t forget to follow Live to the Beat on Facebook and Instagram to get regular updates.

Add an image to your email signature to spread the word about the Live to the Beat campaign.

I Live to the Beat eSignature

Creating change is possible only through collective action. We are grateful and proud to have your support and heart on the mission to reduce the risk of CVD among Black adults. Thank you for all you do!

Exit Notification / Disclaimer Policy

  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) cannot attest to the accuracy of a non-federal website.
  • Linking to a non-federal website does not constitute an endorsement by CDC or any of its employees of the sponsors or the information and products presented on the website.
  • You will be subject to the destination website's privacy policy when you follow the link.
  • CDC is not responsible for Section 508 compliance (accessibility) on other federal or private website.

The independent source for health policy research, polling, and news.

What is Driving Widening Racial Disparities in Life Expectancy?

Latoya Hill and Samantha Artiga Published: May 23, 2023

Introduction

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, life expectancy in the U.S. declined 2.7 years between 2019 and 2021, from 78.8 years to 76.1 years, marking the largest two-year decline in life expectancy since the 1920’s. This decline further widened the existing gap in life expectancy between the U.S. and other comparably large and wealthy countries. It also exacerbated longstanding racial disparities in life expectancy and mortality within the U.S., contributing to excess deaths and increased costs . This analysis examines trends in life expectancy and leading causes of death by race and ethnicity and discusses the factors that contribute to racial disparities in life expectancy. In sum, it finds:

  • There was a sharp drop-off in life expectancy between 2019 and 2021, with particularly large declines among some groups. American Indian and Alaska Native (AIAN) people experienced the largest decline in life expectancy of 6.6 years during this time, followed by Hispanic and Black people (4.2 and 4.0 years, respectively).
  • Reflecting these declines, provisional data for 2021 show that life expectancy was lowest for AIAN people at 65.2 years, followed by Black people, whose expectancy was 70.8 years, compared with 76.4 years for White people and 77.7 years for Hispanic people. It was highest for Asian people at 83.5 years. Data were not reported for Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander (NHOPI) people.
  • These declines were largely due to COVID-19 deaths and reflect the disproportionate burden of excess deaths, including premature excess deaths (before age 75), among people of color during the pandemic. Although COVID-19 mortality was a primary contributor to the recent decrease in life expectancy across groups, leading causes of death vary by race and ethnicity.

These recent stark declines and widening racial disparities in life expectancy amplify the importance of addressing underlying drivers of these disparities, including inequities in health insurance coverage and access to care and social and economic factors that drive health.

Trends in Life Expectancy by Race/Ethnicity

Life expectancy at birth represents the average number of years a group of infants would live if they were to experience throughout life the age-specific death rates prevailing during a specified period. Life expectancy is one of the most used measures of population health, enabling comparisons in health status between countries, states, local communities, and demographic groups. Differences in life expectancy occur across a broad range of dimensions which often intersect with each other, including race, socioeconomic status, gender, geography, and other characteristics. For example, In the U.S. and all other comparable countries, men tend to have shorter life expectancy at birth than women. In 2021, life expectancy for women in the U.S. was 5.9 years higher than for men (79.1 years vs. 73.2 year, respectively), and similar gender disparities persisted within racial and ethnic groups. This analysis focuses on differences in life expectancy by race and ethnicity overall, but within racial and ethnic groups there is variation by these other factors, such as gender.

Prior to 2015, there were relatively steady increases in life expectancy in the U.S., but racial disparities persisted. Before 2015, life expectancy in the U.S. steadily increased with an overall gain of about 10 years between 1960 and 2015 from 69.7 years to 79.4 years. While there have been large gains in life expectancy across racial and ethnic groups, racial disparities have been longstanding and persisted over time. Black people have consistently had lower life expectancy than White people, while, conversely, Hispanic people have consistently had longer life expectancy compared to White people. When life expectancy reached its peak in 2014, life expectancy for Black people was more than three years shorter than White people (75.3 vs. 78.8 years), and Hispanic people had a longer life expectancy at 82.1 years (Figure 1 and Appendix Table 1 ). (Data were not available for other groups.)

Causes of Recent Life Expectancy Declines

The declines in life expectancy between 2019 and 2021 largely reflect an increase in excess deaths amid the COVID-19 pandemic, which disproportionately impacted Black, Hispanic, and AIAN people . KFF analysis finds the pandemic was associated with faster rises in premature mortality rates and resulted in more excess years of life lost for people of color compared to their White counterparts, with people of color accounting for 59% of excess years of life lost while making up 40% of the population. Other analysis further finds that COVID-19 mortality had the largest contribution to the decline in life expectancy between 2020 and 2021 among AIAN, Black and White people, accounting for 21.4%, 35.0%, and 54.1% of their declines, respectively. Among Hispanic and Asian people, COVID-19 had the second largest contribution to the decline in life expectancy, accounting for 25.5% and 16.6% of their declines, respectively. The largest contributor to the decline for Hispanic people was an increase in mortality due to unintentional injuries, while growth in cancer deaths was the primary contributor to the decline for Asian people between 2020 and 2021.

Although COVID-19 mortality was a primary contributor to the recent decrease in life expectancy across groups, leading causes of death varied by race and ethnicity. Overall, COVID-19 was the third leading cause of death in 2021, after heart disease and cancer. However, COVID-19 was the top leading cause of death for Hispanic and AIAN people, followed by heart disease and cancer (Figure 3). Among Black, Asian, and White people, COVID-19 was the third leading cause of death, outranked by heart disease and cancer.

Provisional data from 2022 show that overall mortality declined 5.3% between 2021 and 2022, and that, in 2022, the three leading causes of death were heart disease, cancer, and unintentional injuries. During this time, COVID-19 deaths declined almost 50% overall and across all racial and ethnic groups, dropping to the fourth leading cause of death. Despite these declines in COVID-19 deaths, AIAN and Black people continued to have higher COVID-19 death rates compared to White people. Declining death rates from COVID-19 may improve life expectancy overall, however racial gaps will likely persist given the continued disparities in COVID-19 and other leading causes of death.

Factors Contributing to Racial Life Expectancy Disparities

Research suggests that the factors driving disparities in life expectancy are complex and multifactorial. They include differences in health insurance coverage and access to care, social and economic factors, and health behaviors that are rooted in structural and systemic racism and discrimination (Figure 4).

Figure 4: Health Disparities are Driven by Social and Economic Inequities​

Figure 4: Health Disparities are Driven by Social and Economic Inequities​

People of color are more likely than their White counterparts to be uninsured and to face other barriers to accessing health care that may contribute to shorter life expectancy. Data show that people of color are less likely to have health insurance and more likely to face barriers to accessing care, such as not having a usual source of care. Among AIAN people, chronic underfunding of the Indian Health Service further contributes to barriers to health care. Research shows that, overall, uninsured people are more likely than those with insurance to go without needed medical care due to cost and less likely to receive preventive care and services. Research further shows that uninsured people have higher mortality rates and lower survival rates than people with insurance.

Underlying social and economic inequities also drive disparities in mortality and life expectancy. Hispanic, AIAN, and Black people are more likely to have lower incomes and educational attainment levels compared to White people, and studies find that people with higher incomes and more education live longer lives. Other social and economic factors may also affect life expectancy. For example, historic housing policies, including redlining, and ongoing economic inequities have resulted in residential segregation that pushed many low-income people and people of color into segregated urban neighborhoods.   Research finds that living in racially segregated neighborhoods is associated with shorter life expectancy and higher mortality rates for Black people.

Social and economic factors can also shape health behaviors and exposure to health risks that influence life expectancy ,  For example, Black and AIAN people  have higher rates of smoking , substance and alcohol use disorders , and obesity compared to White people. Research suggests that eliminating smoking and obesity would greatly narrow disparities in life expectancy between Black and White people. People of color are also disproportionately affected by violence, including police and gun-related violence. Research shows African American and AIAN men and women and Latino men are at increased risk of being killed by police compared to their White peers. Black and Hispanic adults also are more likely than White adults to worry about gun violence according to  2023 KFF survey data . Other KFF  analysis  shows that firearm death rates increased sharply among Black and Hispanic youth during the pandemic driven primarily by gun assaults and suicide by firearm.

Research also highlights the role of racism and discrimination in driving racial disparities in mortality . Many of the inequities described above are rooted in racism and discrimination. Racism also contributes to lower quality of care among people of color. For example, a KFF/The Undefeated survey  found that most Black adults believe the health care system treats people unfairly based on their race, and one in five Black and Hispanic adults report they were personally treated unfairly because of their race or ethnicity while getting health care in the past year. Beyond driving structural inequities and differences in experiences obtaining health care, research also demonstrates that racism and discrimination have direct negative impacts on health. For example, research finds that the cumulative effects of exposure to racism and chronic stress , referred to as allostatic load , may contribute to a more rapid decline in health and higher mortality among Black people. The health of AIAN people has also been negatively affected by ongoing racism and discrimination , and intergenerational trauma stemming from historical actions and policies, including genocide, removal from native lands, and assimilation efforts, including Indian boarding schools.

Some life expectancy patterns are not fully understood or observable in the data presented. Notably, Hispanic people have longer life expectancy than their White counterparts despite experiencing increased barriers to accessing health care and social and economic challenges typically associated with poorer health outcomes. Researchers have hypothesized that this finding, sometimes referred to as the Hispanic or Latino health paradox , in part, may stem from variation in outcomes among subgroups of Hispanic people by origin, nativity, and race, with better outcomes for some groups, particularly recent immigrants to the U.S. However, the findings still are not fully understood. Measures of life expectancy for Asian people as a broad group may mask underlying differences among subgroups of the population who vary across health access and social and economic factors. Research has shown variation in life expectancy among Asian subgroups, with Chinese people having the longest life expectancy and Vietnamese people having the shortest life expectancy, which may in part reflect differences in socioeconomic status . Additionally, data limitations for NHOPI people prevented the ability to include them in this analysis. Efforts to expand and improve data collection for NHOPI people will be important to gain a better understanding of their experiences, particularly since they suffered disproportionate impacts on mortality from COVID-19.

Overall, the data suggest that the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated longstanding racial disparities in life expectancy. The recent declines and widening of disparities in life expectancy highlight the urgency and importance of addressing disparities in health broadly and increased attention to disparities in mortality and life expectancy specifically. Continued efforts within and beyond the health care system will be important to reduce ongoing racial disparities in life expectancy, many of which are rooted in systemic racism. Within the health care system, these may include ongoing efforts to reduce gaps in health insurance, increase access to care, and eliminate discrimination and bias. Beyond the health care system, addressing broader social and economic factors, including those that drive disparities in behavioral risks, will also be important.

  • Racial Equity and Health Policy
  • Race/Ethnicity
  • American Indian/Alaska Native

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  • Recent Widening of Racial Disparities in U.S. Life Expectancy Was Largely Driven by COVID-19 Mortality

Also of Interest

  • Premature Mortality During COVID-19 in the U.S. and Peer Countries
  • Key Data on Health and Health Care by Race and Ethnicity
  • COVID-19 Cases, Deaths, and Vaccinations by Race/Ethnicity as of Winter 2022

64K women and girls became pregnant due to rape in states with abortion bans, study estimates

An exam room at Planned Parenthood in Flossmoor in 2018.

More than 64,000 women and girls became pregnant because of rape in states that implemented abortion bans after Roe v. Wade was overruled, according to a new research estimate published online Wednesday.

The research letter, published by JAMA Internal Medicine and headed up by the medical director at Planned Parenthood of Montana, estimated that nearly 520,000 rapes were associated with 64,565 pregnancies across 14 states, most of which had no exceptions that allowed for terminations of pregnancies that occurred as a result of rape.

Texas topped the list, with 45% of the rape-related pregnancies occurring within the state, researchers estimated. Ninety-one percent of the estimated rape-related pregnancies took place in states without exceptions for rape, according to the researchers.

"Few (if any)" of the women and girls who became pregnant because of rape "obtained in-state abortions legally, suggesting that rape exceptions fail to provide reasonable access to abortion for survivors," the research letter said.

Abortion rape exceptions can be rendered “virtually meaningless” because of rape reporting requirements, said Dr. David Himmelstein, who co-authored the research and teaches at the School of Urban Public Health at Hunter College.

"I think, frankly, those are window dressing exceptions," Himmelstein said. "They're not actually exceptions ... [that are] effective in making abortion available in cases of rape."

The researchers used data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Bureau of Justice Statistics and the FBI to create their estimates.

The numbers were "really shockingly high," said one of the authors of the research, Dr. Kari White, an executive and scientific director at the pro-abortion-rights group Resound Research for Reproductive Health.

"Unfortunately, I think that just really reflects how common rape is in the United States," she said in an interview.

Sexual violence affects millions of people every year in the U.S., according to the CDC . Over half of women and nearly 1 in 3 men have experienced sexual violence involving physical contact, according to the CDC.

Abortion bans are also "really interfering with people's abilities to make decisions about their reproductive health care that are very personal," White said.

"And particularly for survivors of rape, you know, they've already had their reproductive autonomy compromised, and state policy is further getting in the way of them making decisions about their health care," she added.

Twelve states are enforcing almost-complete bans on abortion, according to the Guttmacher Institute , a pro-abortion-rights organization. While it is not banned in Wisconsin or North Dakota, abortion access has been complicated in the two states by legal uncertainty in Wisconsin and the decision by North Dakota’s only abortion clinic to move, the institute said.

The Supreme Court overruled the landmark decision Roe v. Wade in June 2022, ending decades of precedent. The court's decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization also ushered in a wave of states restricting or banning abortion.

Since the Dobbs decision, there has been an increase in patients traveling across state lines to get abortions. During the first half of 2023, nearly 1 in 5 people seeking abortions traveled to other states for abortion care, according to research the Guttmacher Institute published in December.

President Joe Biden has discussed expanding reproductive rights as part of his re-election bid; he travel ed to Virginia on Tuesday to reiterate his position that protections provided by Roe v. Wade should be enshrined into law. He has repeatedly said that if Congress passes a bill to restore abortion protections that had been provided by Roe, he would sign it.

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Megan Lebowitz is a politics reporter for NBC News.

King Charles III Visits With Kate Middleton in the Hospital as He's Admitted for Prostate Surgery

Royal health scares: everything we know about kate middleton and king charles’ surgeries, angelina jolie and son pax step out for sushi dinner, megan thee stallion and nicki minaj feud erupts after 'hiss' diss track, bradley cooper and gigi hadid hold hands during london outing, king charles admitted to london clinic for prostate procedure, 50 cent sued by radio host for allegedly throwing microphone at her face, how britney spears stans are trolling justin timberlake's new single, why gordan ramsay wanted to keep wife tana's pregnancy a secret, avril lavigne on 'the greatest hits' tour and performing with olivia rodrigo | retrospective, jason derulo and michael bublé on how they became a musical duo (exclusive), shania twain reacts to shirtless jason kelce meme using her hit song, how justin timberlake reacted to travis kelce naming him as most famous person in his phone, 'ricky stanicky' trailer no. 1, watch tyra banks get terrorized by furries at nets-knicks game, bobby berk addresses 'queer eye' feud rumors after quitting show, watch shemar moore and jesiree react to daughter frankie nailing 1st birthday milestone, dwayne 'the rock' johnson stuns tv host with unexpected gesture, 'love on the spectrum': abbey and david on dream wedding and valentine's plans (exclusive), travis kelce's teammate drue tranquill shares how often taylor swift comes up in locker room, patrick mahomes reveals if fame has changed travis kelce amid taylor swift relationship, jake gyllenhaal spills on body transformation for 'road house' remake (exclusive), kate middleton and the king are both currently hospitalized at london clinic..

As King Charles III was admitted for his planned prostate surgery on Friday morning, the 75-year-old monarch made time to visit with Kate Middleton in the hospital. The Princess of Wales remains hospitalized as she recovers from last week's abdominal surgery .

A source tells ET that the king was admitted to London Clinic on Friday morning, where his daughter-in-law has been recuperating. 

Queen Camilla , 76, was by her husband's side as he arrived at the hospital. While this would be considered typical for many families, it is more common for royal family members to visit later -- as previously seen with the late Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip. 

Another source tells ET that the king and queen "wanted to visit Kate" and see how she was doing before his prostate procedure. 

The king "absolutely adores his daughter-in-law," another source close to the family tells ET. They share a "warm bond" and he thinks she is a "wonderful mother" and has done a "remarkable job with her devotion to her work on behalf of the monarchy."

The palace previously said that Kate would need 10 to 14 days in the hospital "before returning home to continue her recovery."

ET understands that Kate has been FaceTiming with her children and is expected to carry on with her early childhood campaign while she recuperates at home after her discharge. Her trip to Italy this spring with Prince William has been postponed. The palace has announced previously that she is expected to be back to work following Easter.

Meanwhile, King Charles, who is seeking corrective treatment for an enlarged prostate, is expected to remain hospitalized for two nights.

Both King Charles and Kate are in good hands, as the London Clinic is known for its top-notch medical care and unprecedented concierge level facilities with patients able to order room service-like meals and amenities, which allows VIPs to feel well cared for. In fact, Elizabeth Taylor and John F. Kennedy were treated at the London Clinic along with other members of the royal family in the past.

On Friday, Buckingham Palace confirmed that Charles had been admitted to a London hospital for his surgery. 

"His Majesty would like to thank all those who have sent their good wishes over the past week and is delighted to learn that his diagnosis is having a positive impact on public health awareness," the statement reads.

The king is understood to have developed symptoms after Christmas. He has been transparent about the procedure to raise awareness for other men suffering from the condition. It is unusual for two members of the royal family to be in the same hospital concurrently, a source tells ET.

It was on Jan. 17 that Kensington Palace first announced the news of Kate's health scare, with Buckingham Palace issuing a second alert merely two hours later about Charles. 

One such medical update is shocking enough, but two updates within a matter of hours affecting the highest echelons of the royal family is unexpected.

"They're not going to give any running commentary on Princess Katherine's health, but I think it's worth pointing out that it's quite unusual that we've been given so much information, and this is a breach of real royal protocol. It is unusual," royal expert Katie Nicholl recently told ET  of Prince William's wife. "I suspect this is to quash any speculation and, of course, there are going to be wild rumors circulating all over social media. And I think this is the palace's way of trying to control some of that narrative."

While little details have been shared about the Princess of Wales' condition, ET understands that the undisclosed issue was  non-cancerous . 

Meanwhile, the palace shared that the king wished to reveal the news of his diagnosis in order to encourage men experiencing symptoms to get checked. 

"In common with thousands of men each year, The King has sought treatment for an enlarged prostate," the palace's statement read. "His Majesty's condition is benign and he will attend hospital next week for a corrective procedure. The King’s public engagements will be postponed for a short period of recuperation."

As for Charles' upcoming schedule, a royal source tells ET, "His Majesty had a series of meetings and events planned at Dumfries House tomorrow and Friday, which are now being postponed on doctor’s advice. Guests, including foreign dignitaries and members of the Cabinet, were due to travel and so they needed to make people aware of the situation."

ET has also learned that the palace does not expect the Counsellors of State will be needed at the time of the surgery. According to the  royal website , Counsellors of State are typically appointed in the event that the king cannot perform his official duties as sovereign on a temporary basis due to illness or absence abroad.

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  27. What is Driving Widening Racial Disparities in Life Expectancy?

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  28. 64K women and girls became pregnant due to rape in states with abortion

    By Megan Lebowitz. More than 64,000 women and girls became pregnant because of rape in states that implemented abortion bans after Roe v. Wade was overruled, according to a new research estimate ...

  29. King Charles III Visits With Kate Middleton in the Hospital as He's

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