In-person appointments cost $100 more than virtual ones — Here's how telehealth can save patients time and money

In 15 of the largest U.S. cities, patients waited an average of 24 days to schedule an appointment with their physician — a wait they could skip if they opted for virtual visits and telehealth, according to CNBC.

The CEO and co-founder of the Seattle-based telehealth company 98point6 Robbie Cape told CNBC he expects the U.S. to be short nearly 20,000 physicians by 2020, and nearly 30,000 by 2025. This primary care physician shortage is contributing to the long wait times for appointments, but telehealth companies like Mr. Cape's are hoping to change that.

98point6's app works by connecting patients with an artificial intelligence-based chatbot to evaluate their symptoms before directing them to the appropriate caregiver. "We actually have board-certified physicians that are behind all of the [AI] that we're doing. We're using [AI] not to replace the doctors, but to actually augment the doctors," Mr. Cape told CNBC.

Mr. Cape hopes telehealth will also save patients money, as the average cost of a virtual visit is between $50 and $75 compared to an average of $160 for an in-person primary care appointment. While an increasing number of insurers are covering telehealth visits, and more hospitals are beginning to offer virtual care, 98point6 uses a subscription-based model that charges about as much as a co-pay. According to Mr. Cape, this makes it an affordable option for people without insurance or for those with high deductible plans.

"We are capable of making money even at the rates we're charging today, because of how efficient we can make doctors with the AI," Mr. Cape said. "Our board-certified physicians can see large number of patients with all the assistance we give them with technology."

More articles on telehealth:
Emory Healthcare teams up with Australian hospital on remote ICU
Avizia, Regroup partner to expand access to virtual mental healthcare
How telemedicine helped treat an RN for stroke at her own hospital

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