Can a Virtual Doctor Write a Prescription?

Medical drugs encourage the health and wellbeing of millions of people around the world. Every year, countless lives are saved thanks to the advancements of medication. One of the greatest innovations in the medical industry is telehealth. Instead of drudging through the inconvenience of a doctor’s visit, patients can interact with a doctor from the comfort of their home using a computer, smart phone, or tablet. 

As a result of the numerous benefits telehealth provides practitioners and patients, more hospitals are offering virtual services. In fact, in 2017 over half of hospitals provided telehealth services for patients. Virtual healthcare is the wave of the future and now doctors can prescribe patients medication easier than ever before. 

Getting started

Details differ from one doctor to the next, but most online physicians follow a similar process. Everything starts with scheduling an appointment, which can include registering and making an online account. After that, the doctor reaches out via a phone call or video chat. Appointments done through video chat helps your physician gain a more comprehensive understanding of your symptoms and helps you feel more at ease with the process. 

During your consultation, you can chat with your doctor about your ailment, ask questions, and otherwise treat the experience like a routine doctor’s visit. The doctor will also ask about your family history to gain more insight on your condition. Online visits usually take 15 minutes or less, so you save a significant amount of time instead of investing a large chunk of your day at the doctor’s office.

The prescription process

Oftentimes, the process for receiving an online prescription is the same as an in-person visit. After the consultation, the doctor writes a prescription. Typically, doctors have two options about prescribing medications: Either a handwritten prescription or a digital prescription sent straight to a pharmacy of the patient’s choosing. Online medical practitioners, on the other hand, only have the digital option. 

The prescription then arrives at the pharmacy where the pharmacist or pharmacy benefits manager verifies the patient’s insurance covers the medication. If an online doctor prescription isn’t covered by your insurance, then the pharmacist presents you with an alternative:

  • Your insurance company suggests a different medicine for you to try. It might not be your doctor’s preference, but you’ll have to try the alternative first and fail before the insurance company pays for the original medication,
  • The patient pays a co-insurance, which is a percentage of the medicine’s cost. For example, a $120 prescription and a co-insurance rate set at 30 percent will cost you $36 out-of-pocket.
  • In some states, pharmacists can substitute the generic drug themselves in place of the name-brand medicine your doctor requested. Generic medications, which are medicines not made by a branded pharma company, gives the same benefits at a more affordable cost. 
  • The patient pays a co-payment which is a fixed amount outlined by your health insurance plan for prescriptions. For example, a plan might state a patient pays $10 for generic drugs and $40 for name-brand medications. 

An important point to note is the fluctuation in state and federal telehealth regulations. State laws and regulations regarding virtual healthcare are constantly changing and affect the services medical practitioners can legally offer. Services must comply with federal and state rules regarding payment, coverage, doctor licensure, malpractice and a large variety of other rules. Visit the The National Telehealth Policy Resources Center to learn more about the laws in your specific state. 

Virtual healthcare is an amazing innovation that offers people the opportunity to take care of their wellbeing at their convenience. Virtual doctors prescribing online prescriptions helps both the physician and the patient, so consider taking advantage of this powerful innovation.