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The rise of telemedicine is bringing virtual healthcare to the masses
2020 and the global COVID-19 pandemic have brought an unforeseen, yet unsurprising, benefit to the healthcare landscape: an explosive increase in the usage of and trust in telemedicine. For as long as we’ve been alive, we’ve been accustomed to going to the doctor when we feel sick, depressed, or require medical attention. But as countries across the world implemented lockdowns to prevent the spread of coronavirus, people suddenly lost the ability to drive to pharmacies, doctors’ offices, and hospitals.
That’s where an army of impressive, well-funded telemedicine companies have come to the rescue, enabling patients to get in touch with licensed physicians to treat their needs at home. We’ll dig into one of these today, Alpha Medical, that is reshaping the way women can get virtual care for more needs than you might think possible.
It’s always made intuitive sense. Why go to the doctor if you can see one virtually? Well consider the fact 28% of young people in the United States don’t have a Primary Care Provider. If you’re one of those millions of people, a company like Alpha Medical could be perfect for you.
Who is Alpha Medical?
In their own words, Alpha Medical aims to “empower women to take control of their personal healthcare by providing patients with access to simple, everyday medical needs in a convenient, affordable, and discreet online process.”
Pretty straightforward, right? Alpha is a leading telemedicine provider that connects consumers with excellent physician care virtually. They’re able to diagnose and treat a wide array of conditions from the comfort of their own home, and get prescription medication delivered straight to their doors.
How does Alpha Medical work?
So right off the bat, let’s make a few things clear:
- Alpha Medical offers an annual membership, which gives you (among other things,) unlimited virtual visits with a doctor and prescription support. This includes primary and urgent care, women’s health, skin and hair, etc.
- They also offer an annual membership for their Alpha Medical Mental Health offering, which includes support for anxiety, depression, and much more. AND they’ve partnered with Betterhelp, the leading teletherapy provider, to extend support into virtual therapy. This membership is separate from their core offering and only runs you about $20 more per year. I’m sure plenty of folks out there subscribe to both, since physical and mental health are totally different beasts.
- If an annual membership isn’t right for you, or you’re just not yet sold on committing to a full year, you can use their services for a smaller one-time fee. This applies to both physical or mental health.
Okay, so now that we’ve got the basis of Alpha Medical’s pricing out of the way, let’s move on to how things look when you’re signing up. It’s very easy.
1. Start off by describing your symptoms via an online questionnaire. This consultation takes around 5 mins, just like it would in-person in a doctor’s office. If you’re inquiring about something like a skin condition, you may need to upload a couple pictures via your webcam, but that’s it.
You can click into these screenshots to enlarge them.
2. Next, you’ll get connected with your medical provider. Within 24 hours, they’ll review your questionnaire and send you a treatment plan.
3. All set! Alpha Medical will ship your prescriptions straight to your door, for free, within 3-5 business days. And if you need a medication urgently, they can set things up for a same-day pickup from a local pharmacy, instead.
When your prescription runs out, they’ll automatically handle the refill and ship it straight to your door, if applicable.
If you’re a member of Alpha Medical, you’ll also get unlimited support from your doctor, coordinated care, and more. In my opinion, there’s a special comfort in knowing they’ve got your back at any and all times throughout the year. But it might not be for everyone.
Which telemedicine services does Alpha Medical offer?
Primary & Urgent Care
I don’t know about you, but I personally hate going to the doctor. Not because I have anything against doctors, but because the whole process is just a pain. Calling the doctor’s office, setting up an appointment, waiting weeks until they can fit me in, and then actually going. It sucks. So unless I really know something’s wrong and I need to go, I just don’t. I’m not saying that’s the right thing to do — it’s definitely not — but that’s my reality. So that means for milder, more common issues, I just stick it out and pretend things are all dandy.
With Alpha, that’s pretty much solved. You can just book an appointment online, handle things virtually, and fix things. I probably could have avoided a lot of sick days if I’d started using this years ago.
Here are some of the more common conditions that fall in the primary / urgent care bucket.
- Cold & Flu
- Acid reflux & GERD
- Vaginal infections
- Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs)
- STI Testing (Sample kit delivered to your home, conduct the sample, and ship it back for free)
And remember that while Alpha ships prescriptions to you for free, they also allow you to do a same-day pickup from a local pharmacy for any urgent medications.
As a man, I’ll admit that women’s health isn’t really my area of expertise, but this is one area where Alpha seems to excel. For when you can’t make it to your OB/GYN, they’ve got you covered. Just follow the same procedure — describe your symptoms, have a virtual appointment with your doctor, and get prescriptions sent right to you. They’ll also remind you when you need your next screenings, and can book your appointments for you.
- Birth control
- Sexual health
- STI testing
- Menstrual period issues
- General health issues
Skin & Hair
Alpha’s also your own little virtual dermatologist. Struggling with acne? Curious about using Latisse to get those luscious eyelashes? Dealing with a depressing bout of hair loss? They gotchu.
- Cold sores
- Contact Dermotitis
- Hair loss
- Inadequate eyelashes
Approximately 61,500,000 Americans — or 1 in 4 adults — are impacted by mental health illnesses every year in the US. Alpha aims to treat this at home, from the convenience of your own home, by removing the need for patients to find and visit a psychiatrist in-person.
Take a look at some of the mental health illnesses that Alpha treats. But remember, this is only a short-list. If you don’t think this list includes a problem you’re suffering from, let them know and they may be able to help you out.
How much does Alpha Medical cost, and should I get the membership?
Alpha Medical Pricing: Membership vs. Non-member
|Member fee||$99/year, or $35/mo every 3 months||❌|
|Doctor visits||Free||$30 per visit|
|Prescription consultations||Free||$10 per visit|
|Unlimited Messaging with Doctors||✔||❌|
|Free Shipping for Prescriptions||✔||✔|
|20% Discount on the Alpha Shop||✔||❌|
|Copays||Same as with any traditional doctor or pharmacy||Same as with any traditional doctor or pharmacy|
|Same-day pickup for urgent medications||✔||✔|
|Online appointment booking||✔||✔|
Should I get the Alpha Medical Mental Health membership?
For $120 per year, or $45 per month every 3 months, a membership to Alpha Medical’s Mental Health program offers you:
- Mental health consultations. All mental health visits are covered and you’ll never pay additional fees when you visit your provider.
- Personalized treatment plan. Depending on your personal circumstances, your physician may refer you to a dedicated therapist and/or prescribe a medication(s) to help you fight the good fight.
- Unlimited messaging with your dedicated care provider.
- Insurance support, to ensure you’re covered.
- One free month of BetterHelp (a $260 value) for teletherapy services.
Now let’s think about things for a second. Is this worthwhile? Obviously everyone’s individual circumstances will determine if this is a good investment, but let me propose a hypothetical case for a patient, who we’ll call Jessica.
Jessica has a feeling she’s suffering from anxiety and depression, but she’s never visited a psychiatrist to actually confirm it. As things get progressively worse, she decides to visit her primary care physician and talk about it. That’s a $30 copay.
Her doctor refers her to a local psychiatrist and she books an appointment with him that night. The soonest available appointment is four weeks out. In the time leading up to the appointment, she does a bit of research online about her conditions, but not much. When she finally gets a chance to meet with him, he diagnoses Jessica with Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) and a mild case of depression. He also prescribes her an SSRI to treat her conditions. With her insurance, she pays a $150 copay to see the psychiatrist and a $20 copay for a month’s supply of SSRIs.
After a month, she returns to her psychiatrist for a prescription checkup and to discuss whether things have improved at all. Unfortunately the first SSRI that she was prescribed didn’t do much, so her psychiatrist gets her on another one and sends her off. Treatment for mental health issues can be a tricky business because not all prescriptions work for everyone, so this scenario is fairly common. Another $150 in doctor copays.
Now let’s say this next round of prescriptions actually starts to work. Great! Jessica’s feeling much better, her GAD and depression are kept at bay, and she’s feeling better for the first time in a while. She makes it another 9 months before returning to her psychiatrist for a checkup, blah blah blah. Another $150 in doctor copays.
A successful case for Jessica. Throughout her journey, though, she’s spent a total of $480 in copays between seeing her primary care physician and her psychiatrist. And I have a feeling I’ve lowballed this scenario. Because treating mental illnesses is such a tricky thing and requires a ton of ongoing treatment and care, you should expect to visit a psychiatrist more often than you would a normal doctor.
With traditional, in-person care, these copays add up and can get crazy expensive. So for a lot of people, a membership to something like Alpha Medical’s Mental Health service could be a godsend. By offering you a flat annual fee, you cut out all those visit copays AND you have unlimited consultations with your doctor. It’s not like you need to be in-person for all those visits, anyway.
And that price difference? A hypothetical $480 (or way higher) for a year of in-person psychiatry, versus $120 for Alpha Medical. Kind of a no-brainer, to me.
Does Alpha Medical take insurance?
Yes, absolutely. As part of that initial consultation, there’s a step where you can provide your insurance information. Or you can skip that and do it later. Alpha Medical will check with your insurance company to ensure you’re covered.
They do not accept the following insurances, at the time of writing this. If you do have one of these, though, you can still register and simply select External to have your prescription sent to your preferred local pharmacy. So no big problems there.
- Express Scripts
Does Alpha Medical operate in my state?
A common question. Because telemedicine is still fairly new to the healthcare industry, not all telemedicine providers operate in every state. Not yet, at least.
The good news is, Alpha Medical seems to be a bit ahead of the curve. Currently, they operate in 11 states (and growing!). As of writing this article, they operate in:
- New York
Because they’re a fast-growing, early-stage startup, Alpha’s quickly to extend care to additional states.
What sets Alpha Medical apart from other telemedicine providers?
They're women-first, and it shows.
While Alpha Medical treats both men and women, they’re clearly geared more toward delivering first-class care to women. With the explosive growth of the telemedicine industry we’re seeing, it’s not all that common that you see a company specialize as effectively as Alpha Medical has. You immediately see this when you poke around their website, sign up, and start filling out your initial health questionnaire. Few telemedicine providers out there offer an all-compassing offering that includes a spectrum as broad as sexual health, birth control, pregnancy support, and skin care. And even fewer extend that to offer mental health support, as well.
First-class, Licensed Physicians
It’s also clear from reading online reviews that their physician staff is top-notch. It’s always weirrd meeting a new doctor or shopping around for a therapist or psychiatrist, so you can rest assurred knowing their staff is awesome. And on that note, why don’t we jump into some of the Alpha Medical reviews I’ve come across?
Alpha Medical Reviews: What are others saying?
Whenever I’m looking at a relatively early-stage startup, the first thing I do to judge them is to scour the internet for real customer reviews. Well I’m happy to report that in all the digging I did, the VAST majority of reviews of Alpha are extremely positive. Check out their 4.8 star rating on Trustpilot: one of the internet’s leading review platforms. And that review count is an excellent sign that it’s legit.
As I was reading through reviews, a few key things stuck out to me:
- Alpha’s questionnaire is quick and easy to fill out, but also robust enough to do a great job of setting you and your doctor up for success.
- They’re considerably cheaper than the other Alpha competitors out there in the telemedicine market.
- A LOT of people are sold on the convenience of virtual healthcare (and of Alpha, specifically).
- The only complaint I came across was from a couple folks mentioning they’d received the wrong prescription, or hadn’t received one at all. Alpha was quick to respond and fix the issue.
- And on that last note, it’s clear that they’re a super friendly, customer-oriented company who is quick to fix any errors that may arise.
I even stalked their Instagram a bit and found an awesome post shouting out one of their physicians, Dr. J. The comments were full of patients hyping her up! So cool to see this level of love from a company like Alpha — especially when you remember that we’re talking about something so traditionally-boring as healthcare. (No offense, if you work in the field…)
The Verdict: Is Alpha Medical Worth It?
Clearly, the average consumer is seeking medical care and treatment from the comfort of her own couch as her preferred option. And what we’re seeing is medical providers quickly shifting to address this demand, payers changing reimbursement structures so that physicians can actually get compensated appropriately for their work, and governments rapidly changing regulations to support this change. Telemedicine’s here to stay and companies like Alpha that are leading the charge and putting consumers first.
I’ve personally been super impressed by Alpha Medical thus far and for all the reasons I’ve listed here, I say give them a shot. Even if you’re hesitant about committing to a full year of their general or mental health services, it’s worth using them for a one-time visit to at least dip your feet into the water of virtual care.
All-in-all, if you’re looking for a limited option and you know that Alpha Medical supports you, they’re a solid option. But if you’re really looking for an all-in-one primary care provider, we recommend looking at Parsley Health, instead.
Interested in signing up for Alpha Medical?
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