Technology and Health Care: When to Use Telemedicine Instead of Going to Urgent Care
The urgent care clinic model began in the 1990s and has become more mainstream in recent years. Driven largely by frustration over long waiting times at the ER and difficulty finding available appointments with a primary care physician, urgent care clinics have provided a viable alternative that can provide patients easier access to the care they need. Rapid advances in technology have spawned the growth of another convenient alternative to traditional health care options – telemedicine.
The Benefits of Telemedicine for Urgent Care
Telehealth services allow patients to consult with a health professional about their condition 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Services are provided using real-time audio and video; and in order for telemedicine providers to be reimbursed by insurers, the software they use to connect with patients must be secure, HIPAA-compliant, encrypted, and of similar quality to in-person visits.
Telemedicine is “on-demand” health care, allowing patients to access a provider without having to drive to the clinic and without the usual wait times to see someone. This service is especially beneficial in urgent care situations, which by their very nature arise unexpectedly. Rather than having to find a ride to the clinic, find a babysitter for the children, etc., patients can connect with a health professional immediately from the comfort of their own home. This service can even be accessed during the work day, saving employees from unnecessary time out of the office.
Another key benefit of telemedicine is cost savings. The average cost of an urgent care visit is around $150. Emergency room visits for the same health conditions can cost at least three or four times that much. The average cost for telehealth services for an uninsured patient paying cash is only around $40 or $50, which is only about one-third the cost of an in-person urgent care visit.
Given the rising costs of health care, telemedicine is a service that can save consumers a lot of time and money. This is a major reason that telemedicine is now a part of many health plans. Telemedicine can also be purchased as a separate service. Either way, it gives employees access to a wide range of telehealth services for their entire family.
What Health Conditions can be Addressed with Telemedicine?
Telemedicine can be used to help treat patients with several urgent but non-emergency conditions, including:
- Cold and Flu Symptoms
- Ear, Nose and Throat Conditions
- Poison Ivy
- Upset Stomach
- Bladder Infections
- Urinary Tract Infections
- Sprains, Strains, and other Sports Injuries
- Prescriptions and Refills
Less severe chronic conditions can also be managed through telemedicine. Examples include arthritis, asthma, sleep apnea, and chronic skin conditions. These and similar conditions can be managed using remote equipment such as heart monitoring devices, blood pressure monitors, and glucose monitoring devices.While there are a large number of health concerns can be addressed by telemedicine, it cannot be used in all circumstances. If you have an emergency condition such as chest pains, bleeding, trauma, unstable vitals, and fainting, you should go directly to a hospital or clinic.
The Future of Telemedicine
Telemedicine is a rapidly growing sector of the health care market that provides affordable and efficient treatment for non-emergency conditions. A large percentage of employers have already adopted telehealth offerings, as many health plans offer telemedicine as part of their benefits, and even many urgent care clinics are also beginning to offer a telemedicine option to their patients. This provides consumers greater access to the convenience and cost-saving benefits of this service.