November 3, 2017

Emergency Departments vs. Urgent Care vs. Telemedicine

The rising cost of healthcare is forcing consumers to become more involved in their health and wellness. The increase in premiums, co-pays and deductibles has caused many individuals to opt out of insurance completely or, more alarmingly, use Emergency Rooms and Urgent Care Facilities as a substitute for speaking with a physician. IN 2010, a study from the Center for Healthcare Research & Transformation found 35{a66db7d8a243ca4d3d701f892f2edecccc7ae52f00c761945ec7944d9d19480f} of respondents delayed care because they could not afford health care prices. According to another study completed this year (2017) by, that number had risen to 64{a66db7d8a243ca4d3d701f892f2edecccc7ae52f00c761945ec7944d9d19480f} and attributed the delay to high costs, the difficulty in getting an appointment, being too busy or hoping whatever issue they were dealing with would resolve itself on its own.

What’s the Difference?

Emergency Departments are medical treatment facilities specializing in the acute care of patients that may have life-threatening illnesses or injuries which require immediate attention or are considered to be a condition which may permanently endanger the life of an individual. Examples of the types of conditions for which an ED is appropriate include (not limited to):
Major Trauma or Accident
Loss of Consciousness
Heart Attack or Chest Pain
Uncontrollable Bleeding
Moderate to Severe Burns
Deep Knife or GunShot Wounds
Convulsions, Seizures
Severe Abdominal Pain
Suicidal or Homicidal Feelings

Urgent Care Facilities
are not a substitute for emergency care. They are set up to assist patients with an illness or injury that does not appear to be life-threatening but can not wait until a patient’s primary care physician is available. Some examples of conditions include:
Flu or Cold
Fever, Headaches, and Chills
After-Hour Care
Cuts that may require stitches
Severe sore throat or cough
Vomiting, diarrhea or dehydration
Eye Irritation and Redness
Diagnostic services, including X-rays and Lab tests

What’s the Big Deal?

The misuse of EDs has resulted in more than $4.4 billion in waste annually and is a contributing factor in the high cost of healthcare. An average urgent care visit generally costs between $71-$125 dollars for basic care with additional costs added for shots, x-rays, labs, prescriptions, etc while the average emergency room visit runs about $1,318. ER patients, on average, wait approximately 2.5 hours before being taken to an exam room where the wait can be hours if a more traumatic case enters the ER. Urgent care facilities normally see patients with 15-45 minutes and while there is no specific data with regards to wait time in the exam room, it is generally agreed that patients are processed much faster.

What’s the Alternative?


Telemedicine is the remote diagnosis and treatment of patients by means of telecommunications. It has been increasing in popularity rapidly because it provides improved access and it also expands a physician’s ability to reach more patients. Telemedicine helps to reduce, or at the least, contain the cost of healthcare through better management of chronic diseases, reduced travel times and shorter hospital stays. Studies have shown that telemedicine provides services as good as those delivered in traditional in-personal consultation and in some cases, the telemedicine has provided a superior outcome and rated higher with patient satisfaction. Telemedicine can be used to treat a broad range of symptoms including:
Colds, Cough
Pink Eye
Arthritic Pain
Ankle and Arm Sprains
Insect Bites
Sports Injuries
High or Low Blood Pressure
Sore Throat
Gastrointestinal Issues
Cuts and Abrasions
Post Surgical Follow Up
Prescription Refills
Therapy and Counseling

Telemedicine is a less expensive, equally effective, alternative especially when factoring in time lost from work or school, travel expenses, wait times and exposure to other illness when sitting in germ infested waiting or exam rooms. Patients can call in from the comfort and convenience of home or office and continue to work or engage in day to day activities until they connect with a board certified physician.

Telemedicine services vary in price and quality.

Checking out telemedicine providers is as important in choosing an online source as is finding the right physician. Some programs, like VHS, charge a monthly subscription with NO additional co-pays or limits on the number of calls that can be made or the length of those calls. Other providers charge a fee EACH time you call and some limit the number of minutes you can actually speak to the physician without paying additional fees. Virtual Healthcare Solutions Programs range in price from $12.99 to $45.99 a month depending on services. Other providers charge $15, 25, 40 per call with limits on the number of calls that can be made as well as the length of the calls.

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About Susan

Susan joined VHS as the Arizona Benefits Consultant to educate and empower individuals to take an active role in their own health and wealth. She has been instrumental in growing the VHS platform to include work with nonprofit organizations to create a residual income for them to further their causes.