Primary Differences Between Online and In-Person Doctor Visits

Now more than ever, telemedicine services are becoming an important way for patients to connect with doctors from home. They’re a convenient alternative to in-person visits that still allow you to consult with a skilled physician without having to travel anywhere or spend any time in a waiting room. Still, it’s a new concept for many of us, and there are some differences to consider. Let’s take a look at the major differences between online and in-person doctor visits.


With an online doctor, you don’t have to schedule an appointment far in advance, which is the case for many in-person doctor’s offices. If you’re a new patient, the average wait time to see an in-person doctor is 24 days. When you use telemedicine services, the wait time to connect with a doctor is often between 10 and 30 minutes. You can also reach an online doctor 24 hours a day, so you aren’t limited to business hours.


Traditionally a visit to the doctor includes sitting in a waiting room. This can expose you to other sick patients. With online doctors, you don’t have to worry about catching something during your appointment. As an added benefit, by seeing an online doctor at home, you’re also freeing up space at medical centers for people who may be dealing with serious emergencies. That means you’re not just making it safer for yourself by seeing an online doctor, you’re also helping those in your community who are dealing with something that does require in-person care.


The cost of visiting an emergency room in 2017 averaged around $1,389 per visit. Trips to an urgent care center tend to cost about $150 per visit. Medical bills for in-person services can really add up. For that reason, many people have found that online doctors offer a very affordable alternative for many services.

Many online doctor services are far more affordable than traditional doctors. Some of these services work on a monthly subscription basis, while others work on a per-visit basis. You can get monthly subscriptions for as little as $15 to $20 per month. Online doctor services that offer per-visit fees can charge anywhere from about $40 to $60 per visit.

It’s also worth noting that many insurance providers do work with online doctor services. Some major employers also partner with online doctors to ensure that their employees receive discounts. So, it’s possible to save a considerable amount of money by visiting an online doctor.

Level of Care

Online doctors can manage a wide variety of conditions for you. They’ll be able to diagnose and treat a variety of common medical issues, including:

Depending on the service that you choose, there are several hundred conditions that an online doctor should be able to handle. They’re also able to order lab tests and diagnostic work, prescribe medication, and refer you to a specialist if need be.

The big difference between an online doctor and an in-person doctor in this regard is when it comes to emergency care. If you have a condition that would normally require someone to call an ambulance — emergencies like heart attacks, strokes, or broken bones — you should call an ambulance or get yourself to a doctor who can handle emergencies.

The Bottom Line

Online doctors can provide care and treatment for a wide range of medical issues without the inconveniences that come with seeing a doctor in person. Telemedicine services offer an alternative to what in many cases can be a stressful and expensive situation. Of course, you’re still going to want to see an in-person doctor in the event of an emergency, but there are many advantages to using an online doctor service for most medical care.