Telehealth has become a popular way of consulting with your primary care physician, particularly throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. A 2021 survey by the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation found that one in four respondents had met with a healthcare professional by video or phone in the previous four weeks.
With COVID-19 still central to our lives, in-person doctor's appointments -- which often involve crowded commutes and waiting rooms -- can be stressful and inconvenient. MDLive is a telehealth service that eliminates the hassle by offering online health care.
To review MDLive, I looked at cost, benefits, features and who it's best for. I didn't consider the experience of working with a therapist or psychiatrist since treatment and results vary. Here is what I found.
What is MDLive?
MDLive was founded in 2009 out of a need for accessible and affordable care. The founders, Randy Park and Dr. Steve Gurland, wanted an online platform that would connect patients with and without insurance from anywhere to board-certified providers such as doctors, pediatricians, dermatologists, therapists and psychiatrists.
Today, MDLive treats a range of patients with both general and mental health conditions, from those looking to relieve a sore throat and runny nose to those who need counseling after a great personal loss.
Providers on MDLive can prescribe medication to patients and send it directly to the pharmacy of their choice. In addition to prescriptions for general health conditions, doctors can provide medication for those with anxiety, depression,, trauma and PTSD, panic disorders and other mental health concerns.
Therapy and psychiatry through MDLive are offered to adults and children ages 10 and older. Parents and guardians have the option to choose their child's provider from an extensive list of mental health professionals.
MDLive respects the privacy of every patient, as it is written in their Code of Ethics, as well as upholding HIPAA laws. MDLive only shares information with your primary care physician.
How does MDLive work?
Signing up for MDLive is fairly simple -- just create an account on the website or app with your email address, password and birthdate. After creating an account, you'll need to add your personal information, such as your name, ZIP code and insurance coverage (or opt for no insurance coverage). You can add dependents later.
You'll then be directed to the MDLive portal. To find and speak with a physician, click on your profile and a window will ask you to describe your primary condition, symptoms and reason why you're seeking a doctor. Input anything else you would like the doctor to know.
Next, fill out your health profile, including any medications you currently take or medical procedures you've had. Include data such as your weight and height and answer a few more medical history questions.
After, you'll choose the pharmacy where you want to pick up your medications. Then, you can choose your own provider from a list. Their name, title, picture and availability is visible. You can also filter the providers by specialty, language, gender and whether you prefer a video call or phone call.
Then connect with your chosen doctor via your phone, tablet or computer. Each session will last anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes.
MDLive general medicine services
MDLive currently covers three primary categories of general medicine: urgent care, primary care and dermatology. Depending on your coverage, you can receive care for as low as $0.
Meet with on-demand, board-certified doctors for various illnesses and injuries. MDLive's urgent care can treat conditions such as:
- Cold and flu
- Insect bites
- Pink eye
- Yeast infections
A primary care physician is there for routine care and specialist referrals. This type of care offers the following:
- Lab work and diagnostic tests
- Wellness screenings
- Health tracking
- Recommended follow-up care
- Weight regulation
MDLive's board-certified dermatologists are available for all skin, nail and hair conditions. They can treat issues like:
- Fungal skin infections
MDLive mental health therapy and psychiatry services
Besides general health care, MDLive provides mental health resources. It offers access to licensed therapists and board-certified psychiatrists for those seeking mental health care. Therapists on MDLive have a variety of specializations like divorce, work stress, parenting challenges, loss, trauma, anxiety, depression, phobias and LGBTQ support. You can choose your provider based on your preferences like specialty, gender and language.
In therapy sessions with your provider, you will learn coping mechanisms and talk directly to a therapist via video or phone for 45 to 60 minutes per appointment.
Types of therapy offered:
A board-certified psychiatrist can diagnose mental health issues and help treat it with medication management. Each session via video or phone will last shorter than a therapy session -- usually around 15 to 30 minutes.
Types of medication offered:
It should be noted that MDLive cannot prescribe DEA-controlled medications such as ADHD stimulant medications and anti-anxiety benzodiazepines.
What does MDLive cost?
The cost of MDLive depends on the type of care you require and your insurance coverage. The breakdown of pricing is as follows:
- Urgent care: $0 to $82
- Primary care: as low as $0 (only offered through selected health care insurance plans.)
- Dermatology: $0 to $95
- Mental health therapy: $0 to $108
- Mental health psychiatry: $0 to $284 (The initial psychiatry session is $284, and each follow-up is $108, depending on insurance coverage.)
MDLive accepts many major insurance plans such as Cigna, Humana, Blue Cross Blue Shield and Aetna. To find out if your insurance provider covers the cost of MDLive services, you can log into your account and input your insurance information.
How much is MDLive without insurance?
Even if you aren't covered, you can access MDLive's doctors and specialists. You can see a doctor for $82 and above (possibly up to $284 if seeing a psychiatrist). However, depending on your location, MDLive could have an agreement with a local health care organization and offer you a lower rate.
For example, when I created an account, I didn't select an insurance option. There was a local health system (in my case, UNC Health) that was able to cover some of MDLive's costs. I had the option to see an urgent care doctor 24/7 for $49 per visit. Without this special rate, I would pay $82 for a medical visit, $108 for a therapy session, $284 for a psychiatrist and $95 for a dermatology visit.
Benefits of using MDLive
Patients of MDLive have access to many special features, including being able to request an appointment or session 24/7, 365 days of the year. The best factors of MDLive include:
- The ability to choose your doctor, therapist or psychiatrist
- Access to medication prescriptions and management
- Mental health services are available to children aged 10 and above
- Finding and meeting with a provider can be done in just a few days
- A wide range of insurances are accepted
- You can see a doctor even if you don't have insurance
Potential drawbacks of MDLive
The drawbacks of MDLive include conditions it cannot treat or provide care for at this time such as:
- Emergency or life-threatening situations like broken bones, heart attacks or suicidal thoughts
- Treatment or medication prescription for STDs, urinary tract infections of males of any age or females under 18, fevers in children under 3 months, ear pain in children under 3 years or eye issues in children under 12
- Moderate to severe autism spectrum disorder or active psychosis
- Prescription of stimulants or substance-controlled medications
- Paperwork for disability or emotional support animals
According to reviews on Trustpilot, most customers and patients have positive feedback and reviews about their experiences. MDLive has a score of 4.6 out of 5 stars and 82 percent of customers have rated it as excellent. While most customers write about how fast they were able to sign up and see a doctor, there are also reviews that complain about customer service and some doctors not being helpful. One review described having a good experience with an MDLive therapist but a negative visit with a psychiatrist.
Is MDLive for you?
If you are wanting to see a doctor without the pain and time commitment of a commute and waiting room, then MDLive may be an option for you. Whether or not you have insurance, MDLive provides patients with doctors, dermatologists, therapists and psychiatrists, as well as medication prescription and management.
If you have thoughts about hurting yourself, MDLive is not the appropriate channel. If you have an emergency or are in a life-threatening situation, please contact your local police, the nearest emergency room or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.
The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.