Virtual care has been a growing trend in health care for several years, and use expanded greatly throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Virtual health care is a great option for non-emergency symptoms such as sinus infections, sore throats and mild sprains.
What is Virtual Health Care?
Medical professionals practice much of today’s care with a smart phone or tablet, through video or even by email. This is called virtual care. You simply use your computer, phone or other device to either chat, email or video conference with a licensed medical professional.
These medical professionals are the same doctors you’d find in a doctor’s office. They can make a diagnosis and write prescriptions in a matter of minutes based on your symptoms alone, without needing to see you in person.
How Do Virtual Visits Work?
Virtual visits offer you care anytime, anywhere — without ever having to leave your bed or couch. These visits take place through video calls, emails or online chats with a licensed health care professional.
You can schedule and access virtual care through a variety of online applications including MD Live, Teladoc, LiveHealth Online or through the Priority Health app if you’re a Priority Health member. Check with your doctor or health plan provider to see what platform they use to offer virtual care.
What Are the Benefits of Virtual Health Care?
Convenient, time-efficient and affordable, virtual care offers many benefits.
- 24/7 Access to Quality Health Care: Virtual care can provide quick access to board-certified doctors for people who aren’t able to visit their regular doctor or do not feel comfortable going to see a doctor in person due to concerns of getting sick or getting others sick. With virtual care you can receive care anytime, anywhere, with around-the-clock access to health professionals online or over the phone. Virtual care services are offered by reputable sources such as hospital groups or your health insurance plan, which helps ensure that your medical records stay updated following your visit. Check with your primary care doctor or insurance provider for instructions on how to take advantage of virtual care.
- Cost-Effective: Virtual visits usually cost far less than a non-emergency trip to an urgent care clinic or the ER. For example, the cost to visit the ER for a sinus infection could be as high as $740, while a virtual visit for a sinus infection usually costs around $45; or even less.
- No Waiting: Unlike in-person visits where you spend time waiting to see a health care professional, virtual care visits stick to a stricter schedule without extra downtime. You can complete the visit from the comfort of your own home without spending time in a waiting room.
- Coordinated Care: While you may only think of virtual care in the context of diagnosing short-term viruses or infections, they can also help doctors monitor and coordinate care for long-term or post-hospital patients. After your virtual visit, the doctor can send electronic records of your appointment directly to your primary care doctor. In addition, telemedicine is a key component within health care innovation. There are now digital thermometers, blood pressure monitors and more which can help with short-term diagnosing but also the management and tracking of chronic conditions. The integration of technology into health care is going to improve the convenience and speed at which care is delivered.
What is Virtual Urgent Care?
Virtual urgent care allows you to quickly set an appointment with an urgent care health professional from home for non-emergency symptoms. This type of care is accessible 365 days a year and is an option if you’re experiencing symptoms which may otherwise require you to visit an urgent care facility in person. These are symptoms which you would normally quickly seek medical attention for, like a sprain or a sinus infection, but are not severe enough to warrant an emergency room visit.
Virtual Care for Non-Emergencies
Virtual care is a great option to receive medical attention for non-emergency symptoms. They can also be a useful option when you believe you are experiencing a common diagnosis you’ve had before and are familiar with treating, such as an ear or sinus infection. Consider a virtual visit if you are experiencing:
- Allergies, bites and stings
- Sore throat, fever and headache
- Cold, cough and flu
- Diarrhea and heartburn
- Pink eye, rashes and hives
- Sinus infection
- Ear infection
- Yeast infection
- Kidney infection
Be sure to consult with your doctor or health insurance company to see what virtual care options are covered by your primary care provider and health plan before scheduling an appointment.
When to Visit a Doctor In Person
Of course, not all conditions can be treated virtually and may require an in-person visit and/or immediate medical attention.
Urgent Care: If you have a non-life-threatening condition that can’t wait for a doctor visit, go to an urgent care center. Consider Urgent Care if you’re experiencing symptoms such as:
- Minor broken bones and fractures in fingers or toes
- Severe sore throat or cough
- Urinary tract infections
Emergency Room: The ER is designed to treat those who need immediate care and cannot wait for a doctor appointment. People who visit the ER are experiencing serious, hazardous, harmful and potentially fatal conditions such as:
- Bleeding that won’t stop
- Pain in the chest or one arm
- Poisoning or drug overdose
- Seizure or slurred speech
- Major broken bones
If you or a loved one is experiencing an emergency, go to the closest ER for services. If you can’t get to an ER, call 911 immediately.
The next time you’re facing non-emergency illness and can’t get in to see your doctor, try virtual care for a quick and easy alternative to the ER or urgent care. Check with your doctor’s office to see if they provide virtual care or if you’re a Priority Health member, download the app or log in to your Priority Health member account to access virtual care options.