Proximity to medical care isn’t something a healthy person like me thinks about, but it’s an important consideration when you’re full-timing. Two weeks ago while boondocking in Death Valley National Park, I was hit with a sudden illness that scared me so much I thought I needed a doctor, pronto. Unfortunately the closest ER was one hour away, but then I remembered: “Teladoc!”
As I mentioned last week, we had just enrolled with this telemedicine membership-based program that gives you 24/7 access to speak with a U.S.-licensed medical doctor, from any location. Among other benefits, it’s a great way to know if you really need to go to the hospital or if you can manage your symptoms at home.
Lessons Learned from Telemedicine for RVers
My recent experience was a perfect chance to try out Teladoc and I hope you’ll learn from it so that if you decide to enroll in telemedicine, the process is easier for you than it was for me. Here’s what I learned:
Don’t Wait to Activate Your Teladoc Account
Some things should never be done at the same time, like activating your telemedicine account while feeling like you just got hit on the head with a sack of rocks.
When I signed us up for Teladoc (provided though a medical discount company called Carington), I was proud of myself for being proactive, but that’s where I dropped the ball: our activation paperwork sat on my desk for weeks. The day I started feeling sick, turn green and almost faint, I remembered the Teladoc paperwork sitting on my desk. “Oh! We have the Teladoc plan, let’s try it!” I said to Jim.
Unfortunately trying it out wasn’t as easy as signing up for a wine of the month club, especially if you’re without a cell signal like we were. Also, because you’re dealing with medical care, liability issues and so forth, activating your Teladoc account is a long, drawn out ordeal that requires a telephone connection, about 20 minutes and the patience of a saint. Here’s why:
Registration requires cell service.
We were in Death Valley and far from any cell towers. If we didn’t have RV Datasat Internet service that gives us Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP) phone access, I don’t know what we would have done.
Jim was able to make a VOIP call and request a necessary code to begin the activation process.
The plan doesn’t account for the full-time RVer lifestyle.
The registration format is cookie-cutter and doesn’t consider that you’ll be on the move when illness strikes. When registering you must indicate your nearest hospital and pharmacy. If that doesn’t match your physical location, that’s when problems happen. Since we were straddling two states and unsure where we would go if I needed a hospital or pharmacy, Jim had to make educated guesses and randomly pick providers in the same state as our location, which made the database happy.
Adding a dependent to the policy takes time.
To add someone to the policy, you must repeat most of the registration process both online and via the phone. The dependent has to create their own account and log-in to fill in their medical history before requesting a consult. Once again you’ll need at least 30 minutes, a phone connection and patience to sit through a long list of boring legal disclaimers that the customer service rep must read to you.
Teladoc works great once you’re in the system.
We received a call back from an English-speaking medical doctor within about 5 minutes. In their literature Teladoc promises a return call within three hours, but the average response times are much faster. The doctor spoke clearly and compassionately, taking about 15 minutes to go over my symptoms and finally giving me a tentative diagnosis: food poisoning from leftover crab salad! She gave me spot-on suggestions for managing my symptoms and by the next day I was feeling great.
The biggest challenge of Teladoc isn’t the service it provides (as far as we’ve experienced it), it’s that customer service reps gave us conflicting activation instructions more than once. Apparently there are other Teladoc providers besides Carington, so reps have different activation instructions for callers. But otherwise, once you’re in the system, it works beautifully.
The best part about Teladoc? We avoided an unnecessary, expensive trip to the emergency room.
The Teladoc program gave me the peace of mind I needed to know I wasn’t going to drop dead on the spot, and it saved us a lot of money (we have an $11k health insurance deductible). If that’s as good as medical care gets for full-time RVers with lousy health insurance, I’ll take it. At $14.95 a month per family, it’s a small price to pay for the confidence in knowing we have some kind of care when we’re far from civilization.
Rene Agredano and her husband, Jim Nelson, became full-time RVers in 2007 and have been touring the country ever since. In her blog, Rene chronicles the ins and outs of the full-timing life and brings readers along to meet the fascinating people and amazing places they visit on the road. Her road trip adventures are chronicled in her blog at LiveWorkDream.com.