As health care costs continue to grow, more patients with coughs, colds or other minor health concerns are debating whether their ailments warrant a trip to the doctor’s office, or if they should tough it out and save some cash.

In this week’s Angie’s List, learn how some physicians are letting patients check in right from home, providing convenience and saving them money.

More and more patients want to be able to reach out to their doctors online.

“Whether it be through email, virtual office visits, even scheduling appointments online,” said Angie’s List founder, Angie Hicks.

And doctors are listening as a growing number are offering some type of online interaction with their patients.

“Patients are looking for easier access to their physicians. They are looking for convenience, scheduling appointments, and they can do this type of scheduling with ease in other services of their life so their health care makes sense as well,” said Hicks.

Not only are they easy, but online services are typically less expensive than office visits although you might have to pay for virtual visits yourself.

“The online visits are still pretty new as far as health insurance so not all insurance companies may cover them. We’re seeing that doctors are charging anywhere from maybe $20 to $35 for a virtual visit online, but you know a lot of consumers are willing to pay that just out of the convenience and it’s cheaper than what an office visit may be” said Hicks.

More advice from Angie:

The cost of online services:

· While more insurance companies are starting to cover online visits, not all companies do, so it’s a good idea to check first with your insurance company and your specific health plan.

· If your insurance does not cover a visit, then ask your doctor about costs. Some doctors are asking patients to pay a flat fee about $20-$35 – which is less expensive than an in-person visit

Angie’s List tips for using your physician’s online services:

1. Check your insurance: Not all insurance companies cover online visits, so check first.

2. Ask your doctor: Some doctors first require an in-person initial visit before they’ll interact with you online.

3. Become familiar with the website: If your doctor offers prescription refills, appointment scheduling, virtual chats, etc. on their website – become familiar with the site.

4. Understand the details: Does the website offer a secure login? What is the response time for a physician answering a question?

5. Know your symptoms: Online services are best used for minor symptoms such cold and flu symptoms. For urgent symptoms, make an appointment to see a doctor.

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