talking to a psychiatrist over the web while in the emergency department, telehealth
An emergency department patient talks with a psychiatrist via a secure network. Photo courtesy of Albemarle Hospital. Photo credit: Richard Muldez.

By Taylor Knopf

Hurricane Florence has left thousands of North Carolinians displaced from their homes, or unable to leave because of flooding. Medical issues are bound to arise in the coming days. So for all of those non-emergency issues, there are a number of companies providing free virtual doctor visits.

For true emergencies, do not use telehealth visits. Call 9-1-1 or go to your local emergency department.

Telehealth visits can be useful for treating conditions such as a sinus infection, a rash or a urinary tract infection. They can also be used   to refill some prescription.

Controlled substances, however, cannot be refilled over a telehealth visit.

Most providers charge $49 for a virtual visit, but due to the devastation caused by the storm, many are waiving that cost with special access codes listed below. (These offer codes are case sensitive. You must type them in exactly as they appear in quotes below.)

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Some of the telehealth networks have a hotline to help you get started. You can download the associated app on your phone or tablet or visit the networks’ websites. Most will ask for basic information, such as age, height and weight before connecting you to a provider.

You can talk to a doctor through your computer or mobile device. If your connection is strong enough, you will be able to video chat with a provider. Voice telephone calls are also available through certain providers.

Atrium Health

Go online here to access virtual health visits through Atrium Health. Atrium is waiving fees during hurricane recovery. Use the coupon code “FLORENCE.”

Behavioral health

Keep up wtih the latest hurricane news. Sign up for our free Headlines Newsletter.Blue Cross Blue Shield of NC notes that Magellan Health is offering free, confidential counseling for those impacted by the storm. Magellan can also give referrals to local non-profit organizations, shelters and other community-based support. Call 800-327-7451 to get started.

The state Department of Health and Human Services also has a behavioral health “Disaster Distress” hotline, call: 1 800 985 5990

Cone Health

Due to the hurricane, Cone Health is waiving virtual doctor visit fees through 8 a.m. Wednesday, Sept. 19. Visit Cone Health online here or download the Cone Health Virtual Visit app to schedule an appointment. When registering, use the code “CONEFLORENCERELIEF” to waive the usual fees.

Health Line Blue

With Health Line Blue, a product of Blue Cross Blue Shield, nurses answer questions about medications and provide medical guidance until patients can see a physician. Call 877-477-2424 anytime, day or night, to speak with a Health Line Blue nurse.



MDLIVE has set up a hotline for those impacted by the hurricane, call 888-959-9516 and use the code “Florence” to schedule an virtual visit.

“This virtual health offering is available via MDLIVE’s online medical network for the diagnosis and treatment of common health problems, as well as non-emergency dermatological ailments and behavioral issues,” according to Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina’s hurricane resource page.


Teladoc is also offering free virtual doctor visits for those affected by Florence. The Teledoc hotline is 855-756-8708. Call to get started or visit Teladoc’s Hurricane Florence web page here.

UNC Urgent Care 24/7

To assist those physically located in North Carolina who are displaced by the storm, the University of North Carolina health care system is waiving fees for its virtual care visits through Sunday, Sept. 23. To use this service, go to the UNC Urgent Care 24/7 website or download the app on your mobile device. Be sure to use the free offer code “UNCFLORENCE2018” on both the website and the app.

Vidant Health

Vidant is waiving fees associated with its virtual care network VidantNow through Sunday, Sept. 23. To get started with a telehealth visit, you can call 888-575-2522, download the VidantNow app on your mobile device or visit the website here. Use the coupon code “vidantrelief” to get your free visit.


Doctor on Demand

A national organization, Doctor on Demand, also announced it will cover video visits at no cost to all those impacted by the natural disaster now through September 30th. To access Doctor On Demand, download the free app (iTunes or Google Play) or create an account on the website. Once registered, patients can enter code FLORENCE2018 to their account to redeem their visit with a medical provider.

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Taylor Knopf writes about mental health, including addiction and harm reduction. She lives in Raleigh and previously wrote for The News & Observer. Knopf has a bachelor's degree in sociology with a...