If you don’t have to go to the emergency room, don’t go. We’ve all heard the piece of advice before, and if you’ve had to wait in an ER recently, it’s easy to understand why – the average time a patient spends in the emergency room before being sent home is 135 minutes. To make a stressful experience that much worse, the CDC estimates that the average American comes home from the ER with a bill for around $1,000.
For many, the work-around to this time consuming point of care is to visit a local urgent care facility for non-emergencies. Although transitioning from the ER to urgent care often results in a more manageable bill from your insurance company, the average cost of an urgent care visit for three common illnesses was $155, the experience doesn’t always seem worth the savings. The percent of adults who in the last two years rated the quality of their urgent care experience as Fair or Poor was 25 percent.
So why is it so difficult to communicate with a doctor when you need, or think you might need, non-emergent medical attention? This question becomes even more confounding when you think about the fact that every doctor and the vast majority of the American public has the technology they need to interact with each other almost immediately – the cell phone.
In most cases the answer comes down to the majority of the healthcare industry operating in a business model requiring the patient to be seen in-person for the doctor to be paid for their services. This model has been the biggest obstacle to many telemedicine offerings from transitioning to a mainstream alternative for health care.
But if a telemedicine platform can transition the business model from fee-for-service to value-based care – so the doctor is responsible for the life rather than for a list of services provided to the patient – reaching a doctor can be as easy as pressing send.
Value-based telemedicine systems allow everyone access to convenient, quick care from a local doctor in the same way a physician addresses the needs of his or her friends and family – through secure text messaging, image sharing, and video chat – all on the record, enabled by new technologies. With the change in how doctors, hospitals, and clinics are reimbursed by insurance, for the first time, the one-on-one visit that doesn’t happen in-person is suddenly profitable for the doctor.
That shift champions doctors who keep in closer touch with patients and are seeing better health outcomes for those patients. Combine the fact that texting the doctor means one doctor can talk to multiple patients at the same time with the closed loop system that is completely integrated with the patient’s medical record and you’ll find that your doctor is actually able to satisfactorily treat more patients in less time.
Access that matters doesn’t frustrate with barriers to utilization. Rather it reassures with the peace of mind that comes with knowing I can reach the doctor anytime, from anywhere, without a wait, a co-pay or the need to leave the couch.
Ask your insurance company or health system if they offer a value-based telemedicine platform, and if they can connect you to local doctors for continuity of care. The next time you find yourself needing to see a doctor after office hours, you won’t think twice about picking up your phone to send a text rather than packing up the car and heading to urgent care.