When a health issue arises, your first step may be deciding where to seek medical attention. Heading to an urgent care or the emergency room are often top of mind, but some people may forget telemedicine is often a viable option too.
Telemedicine visits, also known as virtual visits, typically last less than 20 minutes, often cost around $50 and can connect you with a doctor 24/7, from the comfort of your home or while on the go. However, while nearly 40% of Americans* said they are interested in using telemedicine to access care, nationwide less than 10% do it.
Virtual visits may provide convenient and more affordable care compared to other settings, while maintaining quality outcomes. In fact, when comparing virtual visits and office visits, about 63% of patients reported no difference in “the overall quality of the visit,” and virtual care was generally preferred for the convenience and avoidance of travel time. Plus, you may save up to $1,800 in comparison to the emergency room.
To help take advantage of this convenient technology, consider these three tips:
- Identify available resources
If you don’t know if you have access to virtual care, check with your hospital, health insurance plan or employer. Nearly 9 out of 10 employers are offering telemedicine to their employees. Medicare Advantage plans can offer coverage for telemedicine resources to access virtual care, in some cases at no out-of-pocket cost.
- Understand appropriate ailments
Telemedicine is most widely used to address minor and non-emergency medical conditions, including allergies, seasonal flu, pinkeye and rashes. If you experience a significant medical issue, you should go to the emergency room (ER), but 25% of ER visits typically involve conditions that could appropriately be address with a virtual visit.**
Virtual visits are also emerging as a helpful resource for behavioral health services, making it more convenient and comfortable for people to access this type of care.
- Use your connected devices
You can consider other technology to help access and potentially improve your health. These may range from smartwatches and activity trackers to continuous blood glucose monitors and technologically connected asthma inhalers. These devices may provide important real-time information and offer actionable feedback to a provider during a virtual visit.
Virtual visits may be ideal for treating minor and non-emergency medical issues, but it shouldn’t replace your relationship with a primary care physician for wellness check-ups and on-going care management.
Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, virtual visits may be useful in determining whether you should contact your local health care provider, as a first step before getting tested.
*UnitedHealthcare Consumer Sentiment Survey of more than 1,000 Americans, 2019
**UnitedHealthcare data; Based on analysis of 2016 UnitedHealthcare ER claim volumes, where ER visits are low acuity and could be treated in a Virtual Visit, primary care physician or urgent/convenient care setting.