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Virtual doctors – Who and what are they?

PUBLISHED: 16 December 2019 | LAST UPDATED: 26 April 2024

What is a virtual doctor? 

Visiting a doctor in a surgery with receptionists and a waiting room could all be a thing of the past. The developments in technology over the past couple of decades have brought video cameras, apps and connectivity to our phones; combine this with the world of medicine, and we’ve got virtual doctors.

Virtual doctors use technology to deliver care, support and treatment to patients no matter where they are, usually via phone or video call. Many virtual doctor services can also connect with physical or digitally enabled health monitors, like a Fitbit, heart rate monitor or home blood pressure reader, which can help the doctor to make a real-time assessment. This technology is helping virtual doctors all around the world to give accurate diagnoses and care – without needing to be in the same room, or even country, as the patient.  

A real doctor 

Despite what many imagine when hearing the term ‘virtual doctor’, it’s not a robot, an algorithm or a chatbot programmed to answer basic medical questions. A virtual doctor is simply the name of a real life, physical doctor who you can contact via phone or video call. 

We spoke to Dr Tim Foggin, from Teladoc Health, a third-party provider1 that we use to provide the Virtual Doctor service, within our Virtual Care services, to find out more about what he does and why he chose to become a virtual doctor. 

“In many ways what I do online is no different to when I’m in my clinic. I get to know and look after a wide spectrum of society and learn real people’s stories along the way. Of course I enjoy the detective work of the diagnostic process and developing the right plan of action to help patients move forward in a way that works for them. What’s really fun about being a virtual doctor is that I speak to people who could be anywhere in the world! I enjoy the surprise of hearing where my patients come from whether that’s in geographical terms or in terms of their medical journey – they might be recovering from an operation or it could be a parent needing to understand how concerned they should be about their child’s symptoms late at night. It’s rewarding to be there for people no matter where they’re coming from.” 

AXA – Global Healthcare customer:
‘It’s the reassurance of speaking to a doctor in my language if necessary whilst travelling’  

If you’ve opted for a video consultation, at the end of your call the doctor will write up your notes, and they’ll be saved on the app so that you can then share them with other healthcare professionals if you need to. None of this information is shared back to us, and anything you discuss with the virtual doctors is confidential, and doesn’t affect your policy in any way. 

How it works 

Virtual Care services from AXA usually work through smartphones, tablets or computers. Once you’ve set up an account, you can simply sign in whenever you need a doctor. 

We work with Teladoc Health to give our customers access to virtual doctors. As an AXA – Global Healthcare customer, you can book an appointment with a qualified and experienced doctor at a time, and in a place that suits you. Once you’ve downloaded the app and registered to use it, you can book phone or video call appointments. You can also do this through the web portal and if you’d prefer to talk to the team (i.e. Teladoc) you can also call them.

You’ll be asked for some brief information about your symptoms and the reason for your call, and  be able choose which language you’d like to speak to a doctor in1. You’ll also be asked for your location – this is so the doctor can give you advice appropriate to the country and services available where you are. Once you’ve had your consultation, the doctor could refer you to a specialist, write you a prescription2, or advise you to go to an emergency medical facility. They can also explain how your local healthcare system works, if you have any questions about how to access the care you need. Or, you might find that speaking to a doctor and getting some expert reassurance is all you needed.  

AXA – Global Healthcare customer: 
‘It makes access easier – especially if I just need a referral to a physio or a prescription issuing.’

No more waiting rooms 

If you’re feeling ill, there’s no need to spend time finding your nearest doctor surgery, waiting on hold to book an appointment or sitting in a waiting room. With our Virtual Doctor service, just sit back, book a call or video consultation through your app and be ready to take the call when it’s time for your appointment. 

Whether it’s at your desk, in your office, on your sofa or even from your bed, our Virtual Doctor service is available anywhere at anytime. It’s currently being used in 76 countries – helping people get the answers and reassurance they need. 

AXA – Global Healthcare customer: 
‘It’s good to talk to someone when local appointments are unavailable’ 

“The World Health Organization encourages ministries for health around the globe to embrace telemedicine and virtual care for this very reason. Many problems can be solved in one conversation, but if they can’t, the patient then has more direct access to medical care and can ensure they’re on the right track straight away. When somebody needs to be referred to in-person, physical care, they have a better understanding of when and where to go, and what to emphasise.”

 - Dr Foggin. 

Give it a go… 

Whether it’s a dry tickly cough, a niggling knee pain, or something on your mind, talking with a virtual doctor can instantly ease your worries and get you back on your feet. 

Even if you’re not feeling unwell and just have a medical question, the virtual doctors can always help point you in the right direction to get you the answers you’re looking for. 

Sometimes, there are times when the virtual doctors will need to refer patients on to see a specialist for some more investigations to either follow something up or rule something out. The good news is that the virtual doctors are able to make referrals to a specialist or explain the local healthcare procedures you’ll need to follow to get seen by the right people. If this is the case, make sure you contact us to make sure that your treatment will be covered. In some cases, we can also speak to your medical provider to arrange to pay them directly, so you don’t have to.  

With you wherever you are 

For those who move around a lot, there’s a lot of time and paperwork involved in registering for a primary doctor every time you’re somewhere new – it can be hard to keep up. If you’re someone who’s always on the move, and never in the same place for long enough to fully understand the health system, our Virtual Doctor service could be the solution for you. You’ll talk to someone who speaks your language and can instantly get up to speed with your case notes. They can give you guidance on how the system works where you are.

AXA – Global Healthcare customer: 
‘I live and work in Qatar, but I visit other countries in the region. I had pain in my leg after flying to Singapore – being able to call someone then would have been helpful.’

If you’re in a remote location with limited access to healthcare, bring the healthcare to you by being able to speak to a doctor or specialist no matter where you are. All you need is an internet connection. 

Half hour health review 

If you're an AXA customer and haven't already accessed the Virtual Doctor service, why not book in for a virtual health review? It’s good to check in with how you’re feeling every now and again, even if you don’t feel unwell. To get started, simply book a virtual consultation through the app, and mention that you'd like a health review in the appointment comments section. That way you can be confident that everything’s in working order for wherever life takes you next.

Make sure you've registered

If you’re an AXA – Global Healthcare customer and haven't already registered for this service. Don't worry, registering is simple: 

  1. All you need is your customer/membership number. 
  2. Simply search for and download the 'Virtual Care from AXA' app now from your iOS or Android app store or visit the online portal to sign up. 
  3. If you have family members covered on your policy, aged 18 and over, they can register too using their own customer number – this can be found on their AXA membership card.

Find out more

For more information about the terms and conditions of this service, click here

The information in this article is correct at the time of publishing.

1Appointments are subject to availability. You do not need to pay or claim for a consultation but you will be charged for the cost of the initial phone call when using the call back service. You won’t be charged if you request a call back using the app or online portal. Telephone appointments are available 24/7/365 and call-backs are typically within 24 hours. Video appointments in English, Spanish and Mandarin are available between 08.00 and 00.00 UK time, Monday to Friday. Video appointments in German are available between 08:00 -20:00 CET, Monday to Friday.

2 Prescriptions available if medically necessary and subject to local regulation.