Telemedicine: Health Care Options Continue to Expand for Overlanders

Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in Overland Journal’s Summer 2022 Issue.

Technology has advanced considerably over the past couple of decades, and services once out of reach while traveling have become readily available. This is especially true in the wake of Covid-19, as safeguards brought on by the pandemic have allowed expanded insurance coverage and increased availability of what is known as telemedicine. Telemedicine gives us the ability to consult a medical provider from anywhere that WiFi and cellular service is offered. The convenience of speaking to a licensed physician remotely is a perfect fit for the overland traveler, as we often tend to stray far from the safety net of home.

Navigating the telemedicine companies out there can be a daunting task, and choosing a platform is a highly individualized decision. To make this undertaking less nebulous for readers, I have compared four telemedicine platforms as well as Divers Alert Network. Divers Alert Network, or DAN, has been included as a fifth platform for consideration but does not provide telemedicine services. They do administer unique benefits that may be of interest to the overlander, though, especially if traveling internationally.

Each of the four listed telemedicine providers offers 24/7 urgent care for non-emergency medical issues, primary care medicine, wellness services such as nutrition counseling, and mental/behavioral health counseling. All the networks offer a free app compatible with any device using Mac, iOS, Android, and Windows operating systems. Setting up an account, navigating the networks, and making appointments were very easy across the board for all networks evaluated. Note that all platforms listed, including DAN, maintain a high level of security for their members and comply with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or HIPAA.

Teladoc Health

teladoc.com

A leader in telemedicine services with a robust online footprint, Teladoc Health has provided remote health care since 2002. What sets this platform apart from its competitors is that its full suite of services is available both in the United States and Canada, making it the only network reviewed offering medical services outside the US.

Another standout feature is that they provide medical consultations to members traveling internationally. The caveat is that outside the US and Canada, its physicians cannot disburse a prescription for medications. If a prescription is recommended, it is dependent on local laws and would need to be written by a physician licensed in the country of travel.

Affordability

  • Without insurance, cost of a visit starts at $75
  • With insurance, cost of visit based off co-pay
  • Works with over 100 insurance plans

Ratings

  • App Store 4.8/5 stars from 341k reviews
  • Google Play 4.5/5 stars from 46.6 k reviews
  • JD Power Teladoc ranks #1 in Telehealth Satisfaction with Direct-to-Consumer Brands

telemedicine

HealthTap

healthtap.com

HealthTap is a relative newcomer on the telemedicine scene that has made a name for itself by offering several unique services. One notable feature is its partnership with CVS Pharmacy’s Minute Clinic for in-person consultations. Of particular interest to the international traveler is their dedicated travel medicine service for pre-travel and post-travel care. This includes vaccination recommendations, malaria prophylaxis, wilderness medicine consultations for remote travel, and treatment of travel-related illnesses. Like Teladoc, HealthTap also offers consultations with a US-licensed physician to members traveling internationally, with the same limitations on prescribing medication and treatment.

HealthTap does offer care for mental health concerns, but visits are with a primary care physician rather than a dedicated behavioral health specialist. Another limitation of this platform is that in order to access services other than urgent care visits, you must subscribe to its HealthTap Prime membership for a $15 monthly fee. The reduced visit cost under this plan may be of benefit to otherwise uninsured travelers. Finally, it should be noted that the services offered through HealthTap are only available in the US, other than consultations as mentioned above.

Affordability

HealthTap Basic Plan

  • Free to join
  • Can only use urgent care
  • $80 per visit or co-pay
  • Works with most major insurance plans

HealthTap Prime

  • $15 a month and visits are $39 or co-pay
  • Can cancel at any time

Ratings

  • App Store 4.6/5 stars from 2.6k reviews
  • Google Play 4.6/5 stars from17.4k reviews

Doctor on Demand

doctorondemand.com

Doctor on Demand is a similar virtual health care network to its competitors and has partnered with most major health insurers. The company scored high marks in user satisfaction reviews on both Apple’s App Store and Google Play, likely due, in part, to their recent merger with Grand Rounds, a patient advocacy platform whose mission is to raise the bar of healthcare nationwide.

The primary strength of this platform is that it allows members to choose from a list of available providers in its network when scheduling an appointment and to keep the same provider in future visits for continuity of care. Doctor on Demand is of limited usefulness to anyone traveling internationally due to none of its services being accessible outside the United States.

Affordability

  • With insurance, cost of visit based off co-pay
  • Without insurance, cost of a visit is $75
  • Behavioral health visits start at $129
  • Works with most major insurance plans

Ratings

  • App Store 4.9/5 stars from 103k reviews
  • Google Play 4.8/5 stars from 50k reviews

Amwell

amwell.com

Amwell has partnered with over two thousand hospital and health care systems. The standout benefit to their platform is the Second Opinions feature, which allows members to have diagnosis and treatment plans reviewed by a physician from The Cleveland Clinic. Amwell’s services are limited in that only urgent care visits are covered by insurance; all other visit types are out of pocket. Another limitation of this platform is that care and consultations are only available to members geographically located in the United States.

Affordability

  • Insurance reimbursement only for urgent care
  • Medical visit cost is $79
  • Behavioral health visits start at $109
  • Nutrition counseling $70
  • Works with more than 55 insurance plans

Ratings

  • App Store 4.9/5 stars from 28.8k reviews
  • Google Play 4.3/5 stars from 7.9k reviews

telemedicine

Divers Alert Network (DAN)

dan.org

DAN has provided travel insurance and emergency medical care to both divers and non-divers alike for 40 years, but they are not a telemedicine service. The service has been included in this article for several reasons. They offer a 24/7 emergency hotline where members may consult a medical professional about any health issue, not limited to diving, and receive recommendations on care or referrals. DAN’s services are available internationally, they offer emergency medical evacuation coverage of up to $150,000, and for an additional fee, members can purchase a comprehensive travel insurance plan.

Affordability

  • $40 per year for Individual Plan
  • $60 per year for Family Plan
  • Travel insurance plans are at an additional cost

The ability to consult a provider for health care needs remotely is a tool that every overlander should have available because hope is not a good plan. However, diagnosing and treating medical issues remotely does not come without shortcomings. Should your condition worsen at any time and you are able to self-extract from your location, do so and seek hands-on medical care. If the situation is dire, call emergencyservices.

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Michael Deeter was raised in Arizona, where he grew up exploring the Southwestern United States, Mexico, and Central America by car with his family. These experiences infused in him a passion for travel and adventure that has endured throughout his life. After finishing high school, he enlisted in the United States Army, where he spent five years with the 75th Ranger Regiment. After leaving the military, he pursued a degree in medicine and graduated from Midwestern University with a master’s degree in physician assistant studies. His career in medicine has focused primarily on urgent care and emergency medicine as well as trauma surgery. He is an active member of the Wilderness Medicine Society and is currently working toward a Fellowship in the Academy of Wilderness Medicine.