Not an Emergency but Need an Answer? Try a Virtual Doctor Visit

Not an Emergency but Need an Answer? Try a Virtual Doctor Visit

Mar 02 2015

What do you do when you’re feeling under the weather but it’s after hours, or you’re miles from home? Heading to urgent care or the emergency room may not be the answer.

It’s best to get a medical expert’s opinion any time you aren’t feeling well. But when the only option is urgent care or the hospital emergency room, often the hassle isn’t worth the reward. And, as a savvy health care consumer, you know that not only would a visit to one of these facilities be quite costly but because yours is not an emergency situation, you might be stuck in the waiting room for a while, too.

So what’s the solution when you’re traveling for work and wake up in the middle of the night congested with a pounding headache? What do you do when your child suffers from familiar pink eye symptoms but it’s Friday evening and the pediatrician’s walk-in clinic doesn’t open for 56 hours?

A virtual visit is a great time- and money-saving option if you’re suffering a condition that isn’t an emergency.

The solution: have a virtual doctor visit. The good news is that you can do this 24/7, after hours or even from a different time zone.

Powered by vendors such as MD Live, Teladoc or LiveHealth Online, and available via video chat or phone, virtual visits offer you care anytime, anywhere, and you get the answers you need without ever having to leave your bed or couch – pretty convenient right?

Plus, they are a great time- and money-saving option for you if you’re suffering a condition that isn’t an emergency.

Virtual visits are appropriate for conditions such as:

  • Fever
  •  Cold and Flu
  • Respiratory infections
  • Sinus infections
  • Sore throats
  • Sprains

Virtual visits are ideal for nights, weekends and holidays when you need medical care. They’re a suitable option if you’re without convenient access to care, living in a remote area, or frequently traveling. However, it’s not the right option when you or a loved one needs an X-ray or lab work, or has a complex medical condition.

Skip the waiting room and see a doctor online

More health systems and health plans are offering virtual visits as a convenient and cost-effective care option for their members. Check the member page of your health plan’s website for directions on how to sign up.

  • Be prepared by registering and activating your account – Sign up for the service before you need it. That way, when you need care, you can quickly schedule an appointment. Be sure to register each of your dependents.
  • Log in when you need help – Indicate your current location and your preference for a family physician or pediatrician. You’ll be asked a few simple questions about your health and current medications, just like you would when you visit a doctor’s office in person.
  • Securely connect with a clinician – See a doctor using your phone, tablet or computer. The U.S. board certified and state-licensed doctor will assess your situation by talking to you over the phone or interacting via video chat. He or she will walk you through a self-exam, and can then diagnose, recommend treatment and prescribe medication if appropriate.

Details of your virtual visit will be shared with your primary care provider for future reference. Your cost for a virtual visit is typically lower than going to an urgent care center or emergency room for a non-emergency situation. There’s no waiting room and the process is safe, secure and follows traditional privacy practices covered in your primary care provider’s office. Plus, it’s quick, it typically only takes about 15 minutes from the time you request a virtual visit until you’re speaking with a doctor.

Are virtual visits the future of medicine?

Telemedicine and virtual doctor visits are becoming more prevelant. The American Telemedicine Association estimates that as many as 500,000 patients will see a doctor via webcam this year, and that number is rising. While telemedicine isn’t new, it represents a new way for you—the  patient—to have more control over your health care.

Remember, if possible, your primary care doctor is always the first person you should call when you’re sick. They know you and your health, so their office is the best place to go for routine care, preventive checkups and chronic condition management. They may also have options for you to get care quickly even when their office is closed. But if you need help after-hours or when you’re far from home, a virtual visit may be your best answer. And that gives you both options and peace of mind.

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