You think you're ready to give this video call with a doctor thing a try. But the problem you've run into now is that you're not sure which company is right for you.
The good news is, outside of the diagnosis you might receive, there's not much holding you back from trying as many different telemedicine companies as you want.
Today I'm going to try and help simplify part of that process for you by comparing two of the biggest telemedicine companies in the game.
Teladoc and American Well.
We're going to compare five different categories:
- Company History
- Platform (Web & Mobile App)
- Talking to a Doctor
Before we get started, I just want to be upfront and let you know our agency sells Teladoc's services as part of this benefit package. But that doesn't mean it's going to be the right fit for you.
Let's start comparing.
The company has been around since 2002 according to its company history on their website, however from several news articles it looks like they officially started talking to patients in 2005.
Teladoc Inc. is a corporation that administers services for TelaDoc Physicians, P.A. Teladoc, Inc. is not licensed to practice medicine and must contract with one or more professional associations and/or licensed physicians to provide telephone and online video consult to members.
TelaDoc Physicians, P.A. is a professional association owned by U.S. licensed physicians that employs or otherwise contracts with one or more physicians licensed to practice medicine. TelaDoc Physicians, P.A. purchases administrative services from Teladoc, Inc. to assist with the operational and administrative functions related to providing telephone and video consult to members.
The company was founded by Drs. Ido and Roy Schoenberg back in 2006 and is based in Boston Massachusetts.
Their mission was to improve access to quality care and make it more affordable and transparent for you. They wanted to achieve this by using mobile and web technology to remove barriers such as distance, mobility, and time.
Here are some fancy words someone got paid a lot of money to write on their website about the company.
American Well offers software, services, and access to clinical services. Their mobile and web service connects doctors with patients for live, on-demand video visits over the internet and handles all the administration, security, and record keeping that modern healthcare requires.
American Well is committed to delivering an outstanding consumer healthcare experience. We strive to reduce wait times and make access more immediate and convenient. We ensure consumers have a choice of US Board certified physicians and offer complete transparency into doctors' backgrounds and ratings. We promote consumer engagement by giving patients insight into and control of their health records. We reduce administrative burden and redundancy by integrating with third-party systems.
Teladoc and American Well Pricing Differences
This is probably going to be where these two companies differ the most.
Teladoc offers subscription style pricing, normally sold as part of a package with other discount benefits. You pay a flat monthly fee and you can get treatment from their doctors whenever you need it.
American Well however is going to charge you, in most cases, $49 per visit. If American Well is offered to you through your job you might only have to pay $39.
These two pricing models are really a matter of preference.
Personally, I would rather pay the monthly fee for more healthcare at a lower cost. Paying $49 for a virtual office visit isn't much different than just going to see your actual doctor in real life. The only difference being you don't have to leave your house to do it.
With Teladoc's pricing model you don't have to worry about paying for another follow-up visit or if your other kid gets sick a few days later.
It's like watching a TV show on Netflix vs. iTunes. If it's on Netflix you can watch as many episodes as you want for your $9.99 a month. iTunes however you're paying $2.99 for each episode.
Teladoc and American Well Platform Comparison (App & Website)
I've tried video calls with Teladoc on both my desktop computer and my phone. My first video visit was done on my desktop and went surprisingly well.
I set up my initial profile and provided my medical history. You can also add your kids and their medical history as well.
When doing a video call on your desktop Teladoc requires you to complete a video test to make sure your system can handle the video call. Once that test was completed I was almost immediately talking with the doctor.
As for the Teladoc app, it has been downloaded 50,000 time in the Google Play store and has a 4.0 rating (yes I'm an android guy).
Overall I really like the app, it's simple and easy to use. I requested a consult right from the home screen.
It asks who the visit was for, me or one of my kids that were on the account. I selected myself and again was almost immediately placed in a call with the doctor.
Both platforms had acceptable audio and video quality during my two visits.
American Well's app is also pretty easy to use (it's been downloaded 500,000 times and also has a rating of 4.0), however I probably prefer the overall look and feel of Teladoc's app.
The Teladoc app lets you set a four digit passcode to easily login to the app, where American Well requires you to enter your full password every time.
Not a big thing, but a minor detail I appreciated for ease of use.
The main difference American Well offers over Teladoc is they let you talk to the doctors who are available with pictures and mini bios. It's a nice added touch to let you pick a doctor and keep booking them.
The mobile visit experience with American Well was pretty seamless. The list of doctors you are provided with tell you if they're available now to talk to a patient or if there's a wait.
The audio and video quality were perfectly fine as well and I never experienced a problem.
Spoiler Alert: I'm almost positive that won't be the case for either of these platforms the more you or I use them.
Strangely enough, I could add my kids names in my American Well account, however there doesn't appear to be a place to save any detailed medical history for repeated used, either for yourself or your children.
For the desktop visit. instead of completing a video quality test, American Well makes you download a video plugin.
While I had no problems getting this to work, it's an extra step that always has the potential to trip up people who don't have a great relationship with their computer.
Talking to a Doctor
Once I was connected with the doctor I was very upfront and told him I was testing out the service because our agency was considering offering Teladoc's services to people.
He was very understanding and helpful explaining the process and what he normally does for patients. He was even kind enough to walk though some fake symptoms with me.
For my second visit I tried try the Teladoc app,
Strangely enough it happened to be the exact same doctor I did my first visit with a few weeks earlier.
He didn't seem to remember me right away, but again I was upfront and told him I think we talked before. He was nice enough to entertain my investigation a second time, however this time I did have a cold for him to try his doctor skills on.
He asked me the standard doctor questions about my cold and then launched into prescribing me Flonase and ZyrTEC.
I wasn't as happy with this diagnosis as I was with the one from one of my American Well Doctors.
I did the same thing with American Well, one visit on my desktop and one on my phone. This time around I tried my phone first.
There were five or six doctors available and only one didn't have a waiting room. So I picked the doctor that was available.
Once you pick your doctor they will ask what you're calling for today. They do this by having you check boxes next to the condition(s) you're suffering from. They also give you the option to provide any drug allergies, weight and vitals (if you know them).
However the one thing that was a little annoying was that by the time I finished providing that information, it told me the doctor was talking to another patient and my visit would start shortly.
I ended up waiting about five minutes before the doctor "came into the room." Overall it was lightning fast compared to a "real" doctor visit.
This doctor was a little less friendly than my first visit with my Teladoc… (que the rimshot). However, after going through the normal doctor cold questions she provided the best diagnosis.
She told me that, surprise, surprise, I have a cold and that there's not much you can do for that and they can typically last 10-14 days.
She said if I wanted to try to shorten the illness I could take a combination of vitamin C, zinc and echinacea supplements to help.
Now like I said, this doctor was a little less friendly and felt like they were reading from a stock doctor script, but overall I was pretty happy.
A little later that same day, to make sure I got the most mileage out of my cold, I tried American Well out on my computer.
Since I had the option, I made it a point to pick a different doctor.
As for the visit itself, this was probably my overall best/favorite experience. Again, I picked a doctor that was available right away and this time was placed into the call immediately.
This time the doctor launched right into their doctor stuff and didn't give me a chance to preface the visit, so I decided to roll with it.
After going through another round of doctor cold questions, this doctor came back with the same treatment as the Teladoc did, nasal spray prescription with a oral medication.
I'm not a big medication kinda guy, if there is a more natural way to treat it, I'm all for it. I wanted to put this doc through the paces and see what would happen if I asked for other alternatives.
They were very receptive to the conversation and offered up a few suggestions that were in line with my preferences.
However, this doctor's opinion contradicted the treatment my first American Well doctor gave me, citing a study (which I was familiar with) that showed your body can only absorb a certain amount of vitamin C and will discard any excess.
At this point I did slip in my intentions for the visit, which led to us slipping into a soapbox conversation about how the majority of patients they talk to just want an antibiotic and will declare a diagnosis before letting the doctor say a word.
Follow-Up After Visit
After each visit you're provided with a message in your Teladoc account that will recap the diagnosis and medications/treatment prescribed, if any.
You'll also have access to any notes your doctor might have made during your visit.
Teladoc also sends you email notification for any prescription medications the doctor may have ordered with a number to the pharmacy you listed in your account.
While they don't send any email notifications, you're also going to have access to a message center that provides you with a similar recap of your visit.
American Well's presentation might be a little nicer as they provide a PDF with all of the visit follow up information. However, if you're like me, the last thing I want to do is download a document to my computer if I don't have to.
I did notice the follow-up information from my best/favorite doctor had a little more detail than the American Well doctor I saw through the app. Since American Well is a pay per visit model it was nice that this doctor offered to talk to me for a follow-up visit free of charge.
The first American Well doctor did not. So this seems less like a company policy and more like a doctor to doctor thing.
Teladoc obviously doesn't have to worry about making that offer since you're paying for a monthly subscription that is a lot less than one American Well visit.
The Bottom Line
Even though it's a pretty small sample size, both companies have substantially exceeded my expectations for telemedicine.
It seems, just like anything else, your mileage will vary depending on the doctor you talk to. The most encouraging part so far is that mileage has been good to great.
While American Well's option to select your doctor will help you increase your ability to get the best mileage out of your visit, Teladoc's lower monthly rate leaves you with zero risk to book multiple visits from doctors.
At the end of the day it's going to come down to the same thing as everything else, price.
If you are looking for access to more healthcare at a lower cost Teladoc is probably going to be your best bet. If you prefer less medical treatment at a higher cost American Well will be your pick.
Let's take you behind the office door and show you exactly what the process is like booking a virtual doctor's appointment.