List your stay on Outdoorsy

Own a cabin, A-frame, yurt, or other outdoor stay?

Get exclusive benefits and discounted fees for a limited time.

Sigfried Trent
by Sigfried Trent
Posted January 16, 2018

What do you do when you need to see a medical professional while vacationing away from home? This is exactly what happened while I was spending a month vacationing in Big Bend National park. I got my first case of gout, but the nearest doctor’s office was nearly a day’s drive away. I tried various home remedies, but the pain was only getting worse. Gout and hiking in Big Bend do not go well together, something needed to be done. In the end, I cured my gout, only had to drive 2 hours, and paid a total of $75. The way I managed to do this was by using the service commonly known as telemedicine. This simply means seeing a doctor by phone or computer.

The Basics

With Telemedicine, you will be talking to a doctor on the phone or by computer video call. You describe to them why you are calling. They will ask you questions. If you have video, and a visible condition, you will show them what is going on. Then they will offer you a recommended course of action. If they feel they can confidently diagnose your condition, they can give you a recommended treatment including a prescription for a nearby pharmacy. If not, they can recommend a nearby physician to consult in person.

There tend to be two types of telemedicine providers: regular hospitals that offer telemedicine, and companies specializing in telemedicine only. You should be able to find either if you have access to the internet. Just search for “telemedicine” and the state you are in. That last part is important. Telemedicine can typically only legally serve someone who is currently in the same state as the service. This is due to the wide-ranging medical regulations in each state.

It doesn’t get a lot more remote than “The Needles” in Canyonlands National Park

State Matters

Not knowing about the state restriction, I first tried to use the telemedicine service from the hospital I normally went to in Washington State. It was only after speaking to an attendant there that I learned you have to be physically in the state to use the service. I was in Texas, so I needed to use a Texas-based service. Lucky for me, Texas had a large Telemedicine company operating there.

In researching the company, I saw that the state legislature had passed a law requiring a physical visit to get any prescriptions. Then I read that the Texas courts had put a hold on the law for the time being. I counted myself lucky. In further reading, I discovered that every state has different rules and regulations. If you call a service in the state, they should be able to let you know what your options are in that state. If you are curious, this report by an industry group gives an overview of the rules in each state as of early 2017.

This is from “The Devils Playground” in Petrified Forest National Park.

The Price is Right

One of the great things about telemedicine services is that they are very affordable. I used a service in Texas called Teledoc. For $50 I registered for a year and got one consultation included in the price. I was quickly connected to a doctor. The physician interviewed me about my symptoms, identified my it as Gout, and prescribed a week-long course of steroids to be filled at the closest pharmacy – about an hour’s drive. The prescription was $15. Those are not after-insurance prices, those are the full price of the service and medicine.

Of course, my medication was generic and apparently cheap to produce. But the visit itself was far less than the $200 average paid for an in-person doctor consultation. My total cost was close to a typical out-of-pocket cost for an insured visit. Your insurance may or may not cover telemedicine. In my case, the total cost was lower than my deductible, so I simply paid out of pocket.

There are many remote locations in Rocky Mountains National Park, and all of them are beautiful.

Service Quality

My experience with Telemedicine was mostly great. The doctor was professional and helpful, it took only around 10 minutes, I got my prescription the next morning, and the treatment worked like a charm. It was the least hassle I’ve ever had dealing with a medical issue. The only challenges I encountered were signing up for the service. The website was friendly, but a little confusing as it catered both to individuals and business accounts. A call to their support line got that straightened out for me.

My wife has also used telemedicine when we were in Washington State – with our usual provider – while vacationing in Mount Ranier. Again, the service was excellent, cheap, and incredibly convenient. Given my experience, I’m inclined to use telemedicine as an initial visit for any condition that isn’t immediately dangerous, even when I’m not on the road.

The New Mexico badlands aren’t too far from civilization, but it sure feels like the middle of nowhere.

Safe Travels

Hopefully, all your travels will be safe and you will stay healthy. None the less, it is wise to be prepared for those times when health fails or injury befalls us. Adventure has its risks, after all. Telemedicine is a great tool to have at your disposal when far from home. If you are taking a longer trip, I recommend finding a provider in your destination state and keeping their phone number or website handy just in case. Planning ahead will also let you ensure you have insurance coverage if you need it.

Sigfried Trent


Ready to get started.

Be the first to get doses of destination inspiration, and discount codes.

We care about the protection of your data. Read our privacy policy