Should I Go to the ER, Urgent Care or Use My Smartphone?

Technology can provide many benefits when it comes to improving your health and well-being.

One of the more recent innovations – telehealth – helps you access a board-certified doctor from your home, office or on the go any day or time of the week.

But how do you know when it makes sense to see a health care provider in person versus using a telehealth service?

It depends on the medical problem, time of day and severity of the problem, says urgent care specialist Wendy Kissinger, DO.

 Among the options patients have are:

  • A primary care office – Normally available during business hours and sometimes after hours and/or weekends, this is a solid choice for preventive health care and chronic disease management.
  • A virtual visit – Available around the clock, every day of the year, you access a provider by computer, smartphone or tablet for minor illnesses. You don’t need to travel to another location, and there is minimal wait time.
  • Urgent care – Urgent care offices are open daily with evening, weekend and holiday hours. Like a doctor’s office, urgent cares are also able to treat illnesses and minor injuries, such as dislocations, sprains and fractures.
  • Emergency room (ER) – For severe health and life-threatening issues such as heart attack, stroke or overdose, the ER is the best option. The average wait time in the ER can sometimes be three or more hours.

Health Care Through Your Smart Phone

Recently, University Hospitals opened a telehealth service called UH Virtual Visit to patients and people seeking treatment for many non-emergency medical conditions. UH Virtual Visit offers a way to get virtual medical, health and education services through a smartphone or secure video.

“With UH Virtual Visit, the biggest advantage is the convenience,” Dr. Kissinger says. “The same quality is there, it’s just a different setting. Also, telehealth services are ideal for treating low-acuity conditions that don’t need any physical intervention – like a laceration would.”

If you’ve ever gone to your doctor to be treated for conditions such as poison ivy, flu symptoms or urinary tract infections (UTIs), UH Virtual Visit can save you time.

“A lot of people, especially women, know when they have a UTI,” Dr. Kissinger says. “They know the symptoms. Patients can even use over-the-counter testing kits and discuss the results with the treating physician. Depending on the diagnosis, we can then deliver a prescription to their choice of pharmacy.”

How to Sign Up for UH Virtual Visit

Signing up for UH Virtual Visit is free. UH Virtual Visit only asks you to pay when you make an appointment, so you won’t get tied into any recurring membership payments. The average cost ranges between a $25 copay and $40 per visit, depending on your deductible and/or insurance.

Choose one of three ways to sign up or activate your account:

  1. Visit: UHhospitals.org/VirtualVisit
  2. Call UH Virtual Visit: 1-888-632-2738
  3. Download the UH Now app, available on the iTunes store and Google Play

Once you’re signed up and your account is activated, you can browse provider profiles, view available appointment times and schedule appointments.

Wendy Kissinger, DO, is an urgent care physician at University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center. You can request an appointment with Dr. Kissinger or any other doctor online.

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