Man with laptop using telehealth by speaking virtually with healthcare provider

When to use telehealth: a guide

Medically reviewed on April 4, 2023 by Jillian Foglesong Stabile, MD, FAAFP. To give you technically accurate, evidence-based information, content published on the Everlywell blog is reviewed by credentialed professionals with expertise in medical and bioscience fields.

Table of contents

Telehealth—a service that connects patients with healthcare providers via a virtual appointment instead of an in-office visit—has skyrocketed in popularity in recent years [1]. By late 2021, 37% of adults in the US had used a telehealth service in the last 12 months. As such, the US government continues to expand access to telemedicine [2, 3].

But if you’ve never signed up for a virtual care appointment with a healthcare provider before, you might be wondering when to use telehealth. While it’s not appropriate for every care scenario (like life-threatening emergencies), telemedicine is an excellent option for discussing test results, meeting specialists for the first time, and managing other health concerns.

In this guide, we’re exploring when to use telehealth—and when you should see a healthcare provider in person instead.

5 types of visits appropriate for telehealth

Telehealth services are useful for a variety of healthcare applications [1]. Let’s explore how telehealth works and a few scenarios when a telemedicine appointment (instead of an in-person visit) might work for you.

Routine checkups

So, can an annual wellness visit be done via telehealth? While you may have only had them in a clinical setting before, virtual routine checkups could be an excellent option for some patients [1].

During a virtual care visit or checkup, your healthcare provider (typically a general practitioner or family physician) might [4]:

  • Review your personal or family health history
  • Collect information about your current: Providers; Care and treatment plans; Prescriptions
  • Provide personalized advice for ongoing conditions (e.g., acne or trouble sleeping)
  • Schedule additional tests or preventative screenings

Initial appointment

If you’re considering working with a new provider, their office might request (or require) an initial appointment to assess your [5]:

  • Health needs
  • Insurance coverage
  • Compatibility with the provider

Since you might not receive any physical care at your consultation appointment, consultations can be an opportunity to utilize telemedicine services. But, if you’re looking for a consultation ahead of an in-person treatment (like a medical procedure), remember to look for a telehealth provider that also offers in-person treatment in your area.

Everlywell VCV offering

Specialist care

If you’re seeking care from a specialist, telehealth visits can conveniently facilitate [1]:

  • First-time virtual visits – Similar to consultations, your provider might use your first appointment to discuss your health needs, draft a care plan, or check that their services are covered by your insurance policy.
  • Ongoing checkups – For some specialties (like mental health care), you might be able to schedule a virtual visit for your follow-up appointment or even routine care. While you might need to make in-person appointments for some tasks (like vaccinations or physical exams) you might be able to include telehealth in your ongoing specialist care plan.

Discussing test results

If you’ve recently undergone lab testing—either at an in-person collection location or using an at-home collection kit—your healthcare or testing provider might offer an opportunity to discuss your results during a telehealth appointment [1].

You might seek lab testing if:

  • Your healthcare provider requests routine blood work
  • You’re experiencing symptoms of an illness or disease
  • You suspect that you might have an allergy or sensitivity

But if your results indicate that you might not need in-person care, your healthcare provider might recommend discussing your results in a virtual setting instead of in person. A virtual appointment may also be helpful before testing if:

  • You have questions about the test or sample collection
  • You’re not sure if your insurance will cover the test
  • You want to assess your options for at-home sample collection

Prescription management

Telemedicine can also help individuals using (or looking to use) prescription medication to manage existing health conditions [1].

What might virtual prescription management look like? For example:

  • You’ve been on the same medication for an ongoing condition for the past few years. The provider who originally wrote your prescription is retiring, and a virtual provider might be able to monitor your care and write refills.
  • You’ve recently received positive test results or a diagnosis for a condition that can be managed with medication. To start treatment as soon as possible, you might ask a virtual provider to write you a prescription while you wait for an appointment with an in-person provider.
  • You’ve been taking a specific medication for a while, but you’re looking to adjust your dose, switch to a generic brand, try out a new brand, or phase off the medication. A telehealth provider could help you accomplish these goals.

When to see an in-person healthcare provider

While telehealth can be a convenient, useful, and affordable treatment option in many scenarios, you should also know when to see an in-person healthcare provider instead of a virtual one.

You should consider seeking in-person treatment for [1]:

  • Emergencies, like: Cardiac symptoms; Trouble breathing; Anaphylaxis (i.e., an allergic reaction); Confusion or mental distress
  • Severe injuries, including: Suspected broken or fractured bones; Cuts or scrapes causing severe bleeding
  • Physical exams, which could include: Sports physicals; Vision tests; Screenings for illnesses; Women’s health exams including pap smear or breast exam; Men’s health exam such as prostate exam

If you’re ever in doubt about what to do during an unexpected health event, contact emergency health services right away.

Connect with a telehealth provider via Everlywell

Knowing when to use telehealth could save you time or money on routine medical care, but you should always seek in-person care during a potentially life-threatening emergency.

When you’re looking for quality care from the comfort of your home, turn to Everlywell. We provide access to telehealth services via Virtual Care Visits, at-home testing collection kits, and other products to help you learn more about your health and meet your goals.

Everlywell can connect you with licensed providers who can discuss recent test results, offer prescription management, and create personalized wellness plans tailored to your needs. If you’re looking for digital healthcare at your fingertips, learn more about our telehealth services.

How much is a telehealth visit with insurance?

Online thyroid treatment: how it works

Herpes online treatment: how it works

Online menopause treatment: how it works

Can an annual wellness visit be done via telehealth?

Why We’re Seeing a Rise in Telemedicine: The Health Care System is Failing Us


  1. What is telehealth? Published June 29, 2022. Accessed March 7, 2023.
  2. Lucas J, Villarroel M. Products - data briefs - number 445 - October 2022. Telemedicine use among adults: United States 2021. Published October 12, 2022. Accessed March 7, 2023.
  3. Telehealth policy updates. Published January 23, 2023. Accessed March 7, 2023.
  4. Yearly "wellness" visits. Annual Wellness Visit Coverage. Accessed March 7, 2023.
  5. How to prepare for a doctor's appointment. National Institute on Aging. Published February 3, 2020. Accessed March 7, 2023.
Everlywell makes lab testing easy and convenient with at-home collection and digital results in days. Learn More