A few years ago, having a video or phone call appointment with your doctor was the exception, not the rule. Now, telemedicine has become a part of many people's everyday lives, and an increasing amount of our interactions with healthcare professionals occur via websites and apps. Live chats, video visits, and unlimited messaging are bringing primary care directly into our homes and, in the process, offering improved access to quality healthcare and lower costs over time.
Typically, we all want to find the best doctors in our area. So how do you find the best online doctor for high-quality telemedicine? What service provides the most value if you're on a budget? What happens if you need specialty care? And how do online doctors fit into your overall healthcare plan?
We’ve tested over 20 companies and thoroughly compared their services. In this guide, we share our picks for the best online doctor in 2023 and give you the details to help you decide.
Plushcare was a close runner-up for overall best online doctors, while Amwell was a close runner-up in the category of best doctors for one-off, immediate care.
Over the past two decades, Innerbody Research has helped tens of millions of readers make more informed decisions about staying healthy and living healthier lifestyles.
Like all medical-related content on Innerbody, this guide is thoroughly vetted by one or more members of our Medical Review Board for accuracy. Additionally, we extensively analyze each health-related service we review. We evaluate the entire customer experience from signing up to using the product or service and then offer unbiased, marketing-jargon-free analysis based on the latest scientific evidence and medical standards.
What type of care are you looking for? There are nearly as many types of doctors as there are health concerns. You might be looking for:
Telemedicine services vary and accommodate a growing spectrum of healthcare needs, from ongoing to sporadic and routine to intensive. It's worth asking yourself what you're looking to achieve with an online doctor. Gaining clarity about that will help you identify the best service and potentially save you money.
Even in the most robust relationships, online doctors complement in-person care rather than fully replace it. In many cases, you can nearly replace in-person care. However, there are some limits to what telemedicine can do for us.
However, keeping these common limitations in mind, you can replace a great deal of your in-person care needs with telemedicine and online doctor's visits, saving yourself and the entire healthcare industry money. Telemedicine is rapidly expanding thanks to its improvement of the overall picture of healthcare.
For some medications, a doctor must perform an in-person exam to prescribe them to you. You can't get the following treatments from an online doctor, whether your needs are legitimate or not:
You'll need to get a prescription from a doctor in person for these medications. Your online doctor can refer you to a local physician for these needs.
Getting started with online doctors follows a general pattern, though there are slight variations.
Our favorite telemedicine companies let you complete a visit using a smartphone, tablet, or computer, though in some cases, video isn't possible from all devices. Depending on the state where you reside, you may be required to use video.
All of the top telemedicine services reviewed here ensure that their doctors meet high standards of care, quality, and experience. These doctors are all board-certified and trained to provide top-notch telemedical care. Our top choice overall, Lemonaid, insists that its doctors earn their degrees from a top 50 medical school.
While there are many commonalities with telehealth companies, there are also features that make each service unique, including:
We've tested all of the major players — and honorary mentions go to Sherpaa, MeMD, LiveHealth Online, HealthSapiens, and Maven — but we'll spotlight the group that impresses us most for reasons you'll discover below.
We've broken down our favorites into four categories:
Our comprehensive picks are companies that offer a wide range of services. Many include specialty care and mental health services in addition to primary care. If you're looking for a company that caters to men's or women's health needs, we've got you covered here too. Lastly, the specialty care section looks at companies that focus on one particular condition, like allergies, migraine, and hair loss.
Read our full Hers review here.
A subscription-based telehealth company, Hers offers women-focused healthcare that focuses on a variety of issues:
Hers primary care is affordable and convenient. For $39 per visit, Hers connects you with certified providers in your state. These visits can help treat over 30 conditions, including:
Hers also offers prescription refills for allergies and migraine. Treatments for acid reflux and stomach issues are coming soon.
If your provider prescribes medication for treatment, pick up the prescription from a local pharmacy. Health insurance won't cover the cost of your primary care visit, but you can use insurance to lower the cost of your prescription if your plan covers the medication.
To set up an appointment with Hers, follow these steps:
In addition to primary care, Hers also offers:
Therapy appointments are pay-as-you-go and cost $99 per session. Telepsychiatry services require an $85/month subscription that covers medication delivery and follow-up appointments. Support groups are free and anonymous and cover various issues like sleep problems, mindfulness, and relationships.
To learn more, you can always head over to our full Hims review.
Hims is a men's telehealth company that offers a wide range of services, including hair care, skin care, and sexual health. Currently, they provide primary care telemedicine consultations for $39 per visit, individual therapy sessions for $99 per visit, and a telepsychiatry subscription for $85 per month, including prescriptions.
Hims primary care doctors can provide a variety of services:
Your Hims provider may also be able to refill existing prescriptions.
It's pretty easy to get started and to use the Hims interface. Our testers did not have to wait long to access care or be connected with a doctor.
Insurance, HSA, and FSA do not cover Hims primary care visits. For prescriptions, you can provide your insurance card to the pharmacy to see if the prescription cost is covered or reduced.
With Hims, you don't schedule an appointment with a provider. Instead, you exchange chat messages with your doctor at your convenience. You'll receive an email or a text when you have a new message from your doctor. Log in to the Hims site or app to read and respond.
We did find a few issues with the experience. The chat interface can seem a bit impersonal. You don't video chat with your provider – you simply read messages from them. But for those with busy schedules or who prefer text to video, the convenience of Hims interface is undeniable.
The chat interface doesn't reload as you might expect. Instead, you click the link in your email or text to read the next message from your provider, which might not seem like the most efficient method of communication. Either way, Hims offers a convenient and cost-effective way to meet healthcare needs, even with a few hiccups.
You can learn more by checking out our full Lemonaid review.
Lemonaid is a substantial value with enough coverage and flexibility to make it our top choice for the best online doctor in 2023. No telemedicine service is perfect, but Lemonaid compensates for its disadvantages better than any other service at this time.
For instance, Lemonaid doesn't accept insurance for doctor consultations. But, the price of most consultations is less than the standard $30 insurance copay. If insurance covers your medication, you can also instruct Lemonaid to send prescriptions to a local pharmacy. Then, use your insurance to pay for the medicine.
Lemonaid's online doctors can treat various health concerns, including:
Through Lemonaid, you have access to doctors who address the following common chronic or acute concerns, among others:
Most consultations with a doctor cost $25. There are exceptions — such as mental health care for anxiety or depression — in which cases there is a monthly flat fee that covers ongoing consultations and care. The monthly flat fee for these mental health telemedicine services starts at $95/month.
Lemonaid does not accept insurance. Consultation fees of $25 are comparable or less than standard copays via the traditional in-office doctor's visit. This means you pay less for more convenient and timely care delivered from the comfort of your own home.
Lemonaid gives you a choice:
Having medications delivered to your doorstep is an unparalleled convenience, eliminating all trips to the pharmacy and providing a high level of privacy at the same time. But your choice may depend on whether your insurance (if you have insurance) covers the prescribed medication. If it does, then filling the prescription at your local pharmacy allows you to apply your insurance to cover some or all of the medication cost.
The ability to make this kind of decision for yourself is very user-friendly. Combined with the low price of consultations, Lemonaid's convenient telemedicine services for many people can truly cost much less than the traditional healthcare route.
Plushcare is a close runner-up for best in class. Their services are more expensive, and their membership (technically optional but kind of essential) adds a monthly fee on top. However, Plushcare offers a 30-day free trial period, an excellent feature that helps Plushcare stand out from the pack in consideration for their prospective patients.
Plushcare addresses both chronic (ongoing) and urgent health concerns.
Chronic concerns include the following:
Acute (urgent) health issues:
NOTE: If you have a health emergency, call 911.
With Plushcare, you either:
In terms of insurance, Plushcare accepts most major providers, including Aetna, Anthem Blue Cross, Blue Shield of California, Cigna, Humana, UnitedHealthcare, and others.
There is a monthly membership fee of $14.99 if you choose to become a member. Becoming a member is not necessary but is advisable if you use Plushcare.
If you're a non-member, you:
If you need lab tests, your doctor will order them for a nearby lab. Plushcare partners with LabCorp to deliver high-quality lab testing.
SteadyMD aims to provide remote concierge healthcare service and does an incredible job, taking primary care to another level. The amount of personal attention that you can receive from your dedicated, long-term physician at SteadyMD will startle most people; it is on par with — or better than — the most attentive, traditional primary care many of us have ever received.
Your doctor's visit with SteadyMD can last an hour or longer if needed — compared to around 10-15 minutes in a traditional doctor's office. You have unlimited access to call, text, or video chat with your doctor, and your doctor reaches out to you for check-ins. SteadyMD gathers all of your medical records to ensure the care they provide is on the firmest possible footing. And SteadyMD doctors can give this amount of attention because they see fewer patients per doctor than in a typical healthcare setting.
So what is the catch? Why isn't SteadyMD our top pick overall? It boils down to the price tag, which is just too high for many people to afford.
SteadyMD doesn't accept — and isn't a replacement for — health insurance, and yet their pay structure is a monthly membership fee of $99 per person at minimum. Some of their programs cost more.
Concierge healthcare is the best lens through which to understand SteadyMD. Compared to traditional concierge healthcare, SteadyMD is a true bargain. The word "concierge" conjures images of luxury VIP service from a dedicated professional, above and beyond what you would typically expect. Concierge healthcare applies that same level of attention in the context of medicine, transforming your relationship with your doctor and the level of care you receive.
But that level of comfort and care comes with a high price tag. SteadyMD is the best for those who can afford the high cost, which isn't everyone. But we do know that developing a meaningful relationship with a primary care doctor can result in excellent long-term healthcare.
Comprehensive and preventative healthcare could save many of us from astronomical costs of certain severe medical conditions later in life. In that case, the subscription price of SteadyMD is probably a great value over time. But, that doesn't help many people afford the cost now. For those who can afford the monthly membership on top of their regular insurance expenses (to cover prescriptions, testing, and specialist care), SteadyMD is a great service that adds enormous convenience to your life while giving you unparalleled access to top-notch healthcare.
Teladoc serves the entire U.S. with pay-per-visit primary care, dermatology consultations, talk therapy, and psychiatric care. It functions best as a "there-when-you-need-it" immediate care service rather than a personalized, comprehensive care experience.
Once you create your account, you pay per service at rates that depend on the nature of the visit. There are no appointments necessary. If a doctor prescribes medication, pick it up at your local pharmacy.
We liked that you can use your computer or the mobile app for video visits, which isn't always the case. Sessions with a doctor are lengthy and not at all rushed. The sessions worked well from any device in our testing, including a computer, smartphone, and tablet.
Our testers waited between five and minutes for their visit – just slightly longer than competitors.
Visits fall under certain broad categories:
Psychiatric care is the costlier mental health option because you speak with a doctor to prescribe medication.
Teladoc accepts most major insurance as well as HSA and FSA payments. Teladoc also works with some employers to provide telemedicine to employees.
If you are uninsured or your plan isn't accepted, you will pay:
To lower visit costs, you can opt to pay an annual membership fee of $29.99 for individuals or $49.99 for families. Visit costs are also lower if you have insurance coverage or an accepted employer health plan. Visit prices drop to:
Formerly known as American Well, Amwell illustrates telemedicine's immense and rapid growth as its public trading debut came in September 2020 with a $742 million IPO. Amwell has also made recent inroads into women's specialty care.
At this time, the company isn't poised to replace a deeper relationship with your primary care physician but instead is geared toward providing intermittent and immediate care, similar to Teladoc.
On average, our Amwell visits lasted close to ten minutes, and the longest visit was 13 minutes.
Our testers were not impressed by the length of Amwell's appointments or the attention given by doctors, especially when compared with services from Teladoc. Teladoc's visits felt limitless with enough time to delve deeply into an issue, while Amwell felt more rushed and abrupt.
For straightforward health concerns, Amwell will likely satisfy. But if you are covered by a major insurer and looking for one-off, convenient doctor support between your routine primary care visits, Teladoc right now wins for its more generous doctor service.
Amwell's structure is pay-per-visit, and pricing is very competitive:
Note that pricing isn't so fixed; Amwell's doctors in a few care areas can set their pricing, removing a little predictability for the patient.
In our testing and final assessment, Doctor on Demand has many benefits and a few drawbacks.
We choose Doctor on Demand for the busiest (insured) people because the company offers you the flexibility to decide whether to have a visit right away without an appointment or schedule a fixed appointment and avoid the wait. While having an appointment is helpful for people with hectic schedules, some customers prefer to be seen by a doctor without having to schedule it.
To be clear, none of the competitors recommended in this guide required long wait times due to a lack of appointments. But 5-10 minutes is still a wait time. If you have insurance, we recommend Doctor on Demand as a solid telemedicine solution that saves you time.
Doctor on Demand provides telemedicine in the following areas:
There is no membership; Doctor on Demand is a pay-per-service company like other competitors. What you pay will be much more reasonable with insurance than without it.
Pricing without insurance:
There are three reasons why HeyDoctor shares with Lemonaid the distinction of being our top pick for the tightest budgets:
HeyDoctor is a solid choice if you have limited resources to obtain medical attention and aren't looking for a dedicated, ongoing primary care relationship. HeyDoctor is where you can go if you have a strong feeling you know what you need, and you're looking for immediate attention to achieve things like health testing and prescriptions.
HeyDoctor provides pay-per-service telemedicine visits in the following broad areas:
The whole process with HeyDoctor is streamlined, making your interaction with doctors quite limited compared to other companies. Depending on the service you seek and the health information you provide, you may engage in a video call with a doctor. However, the doctor may review your information and determine the proper course of action and prescribe treatment after just a brief interaction in text messaging.
If the doctor prescribes testing or medication, you will be able to pick up your prescription at a local pharmacy or use a delivery service like GoGoMeds to deliver it to your door. For testing, HeyDoctor partners with reputable, local labs, which you visit to have the test administered.
The company avoids membership fees and does not accept insurance but keeps prices low enough that you likely won't care – if you're lucky enough to live in an area where you can access it.
Prices are not a flat rate for all services but instead vary depending on the nature of the healthcare you receive. Most services, however, cost in the ballpark of $20-$30. Our testers appreciated how HeyDoctor's "menu" of doctor services is clear and transparent.
This service replaces only a small aspect of your greater healthcare picture. But it replaces those specific kinds of traditional medical attention with cheap and more convenient telemedicine, where available.
For more, visit our full review of Sesame Care.
Sesame Care is a pay-per-visit telehealth company that offers upfront pricing. One unique feature of Sesame is that customers can schedule both video and in-person appointments. Providers set their own prices, and you don't need a membership or subscription to use Sesame.
Sesame provides treatment in over 40 areas, including:
Because Sesame's providers set visit costs, prices per appointment vary. General medical telehealth visits cost anywhere from $25-$99. You will always know the cost of an appointment before booking it. In general, Sesame saves patients up to 60% on healthcare costs.
Getting started with Sesame requires just a few easy steps:
Sesame's prescription service – SesameRX – offers some prescriptions for as low as $5, many with free delivery. SesameRX provides upfront pricing on 30-day supplies of medications.
Cove specializes in helping people with migraine and is designed for those who suffer from acute or chronic migraine. It is a cost-effective way for patients to access a specialist, even if their insurance doesn't cover it.
They offer a variety of treatment options:
A Cove subscription costs only $4 per month. This includes your initial specialist consultation and unlimited messaging with your doctor. Most medications and treatments cost between $6 and $35 per month. Some of your prescriptions may be fully covered or have a drastically reduced price if you have insurance. All medications and supplements are delivered by mail.
To get started with Cove, follow just a few easy steps:
Cove offers a wide range of medications and supplements to help treat migraine. Its acute medications include:
For migraine prevention, Cove offers:
Supplements include magnesium, CoQ10, and riboflavin. Cove also offers Cove Beam, a blend of these three supplements with added iron. Note: you can purchase supplements without a subscription or consultation.
For more details, visit our full Cove review.
Read our full review of Picnic here.
Picnic offers relief from allergic rhinitis, commonly known as hay fever. The company provides a subscription and delivery service with customized allergy treatments that can include:
These treatments can be over-the-counter as well as prescription-strength medications. If you require a prescription, consult with a licensed physician or allergist to help personalize your treatment plan.
Treatments and medications range in price from $5-$58 per month. Picnic ships your medications each month or every three months if you'd prefer a longer supply. Ordering 3-month supplies can also help you save money instead of ordering each month. You pay $5 per year for a yearly consultation with a doctor with a subscription.
To get started with Picnic, complete the following steps:
Picnic provides 11 OTC and prescription allergy treatments:
Read our full review of Keeps here.
Keeps offers hair and scalp care products to treat hair loss, including FDA-approved prescriptions. Androgenic alopecia, better known as male pattern hair loss, can be prevented and reversed using a combination of certain products that Keeps offers:
Prices of products range from $11-120 for a 3-month supply, depending on your treatment plan. Some medications require a prescription, which means you'll consult with a Keeps doctor before proceeding with treatment. Your initial consultation is free, and any follow-up consultations cost only $5.
To get started with Keeps, follow a few easy steps:
Finasteride and minoxidil have been proven, in clinical trials, to stop hair loss in the majority of participants. The treatment reversed hair loss for about half, resulting in new hair growth. In addition, Keeps' shampoos and conditioner protect your scalp while strengthening and nourishing your hair.
At Innerbody research, we customize our evaluation criteria depending on the type and nature of the health product or service. When assessing online doctors, we look at five essential criteria.
Quality: Just because a healthcare appointment is online does not mean you should have to sacrifice quality. Telehealth services should provide high-quality care with board-certified, experienced professionals. Appointments should be easy to schedule and complete, and prescriptions should be as accessible and affordable as possible. At the end of the day, you should feel cared for by your online doctor in the same way you feel cared for by a face-to-face doctor.
Cost: Since many telehealth services are not covered by insurance, companies must keep costs low. Making economical choices when it comes to healthcare keeps customers from being bogged down by medical debt. Prices should be budget-friendly and upfront. If a subscription is required, we think you should have the option to cancel at any time.
Speed: When you contact a company for medical care, you probably want relief from your symptoms right away. When we evaluate telehealth companies, we consider speed because no one likes long wait times when it comes to getting well. Telehealth companies should be as efficient as possible when scheduling appointments, devising treatment plans, and shipping medications.
Effectiveness: You want to know that the treatment plan or medication your provider suggests will work. You also want to know that you can reach out to your provider to discuss alterations to that plan or side effects from that medication. Effectiveness goes beyond a salve for symptoms — it also means how effective the company is at treating you as a person with a complex history and diverse set of needs. We want the companies we recommend to do just that.
User-friendliness: It doesn't matter how effective a treatment plan is if the site and app used to access it are hard to navigate. Telehealth companies should pride themselves on creating technologies that are as logical and efficient as possible. This helps you get the service you need without having to think too hard about which button to click next. Also, you should easily be able to contact customer support when technical issues do arise.