NewsPinellas County


Using telemedicine apps to diagnose illness amid coronavirus concerns

Posted at 7:18 PM, Mar 12, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-12 19:18:19-04

TAMPA, Fla. -- See a doctor from the comfort of your own home. It’s been a possibility for a few years now and amid coronavirus concerns, healthcare officials in Florida are urging people to use the telemedicine apps.

It’s basically a doctor's visit in virtual form — a concept many folks are still getting used to.

James Cote, the Senior VP for BayCare ambulatory services demonstrated how it works Thursday.

“Once they use it, 30% of them come back again. Because it’s just so easy and convenient,” he said.

Doctors say it’s a good idea to try the app at home first, before you show up at a doctors office, urgent care or the hospital if it’s not a true emergency.

The clinicians on the app are able to diagnose illnesses like the flu and the common cold over the phone by analyzing your symptoms. If they suspect COVID-19, they can send you to a specific place for additional testing.

“It keeps them from infecting the rest of the community and to be out there with everybody else,” said Cote.

Each digital visit costs $59 but that’s without insurance.

Doctors say it’s important to check with your insurance company to see if they cover telemedicine visits which could bring the co-pay down.

“Payment is changing as we speak, day-to-day and payers that have not paid are going to start covering the service,” Cote said. “Just because it’s so good to screen a majority of the population without having them overload hour urgent cares or emergency rooms.”

Weight times in the virtual waiting room have been creeping up ever so slightly this week with concerns over the coronavirus. It’s one reason BayCare will ramp up the number of providers available in the app.

“At any point you become concerned you can actually login on your device and reach a clinician which not all urgent care offices are going to be open 24/7,” said Dr. Julie Braddy-Roberts, a clinician with BayCare.

Tampa General hospital and AdventHealth also have telehealth apps.