Telemedicine has been shown to provide valuable access for patients who otherwise might not be able to see a physician in person. Unfortunately, not all patients have gotten the message that it’s best used as an alternative to heading to the doctor’s office; instead, they follow a virtual visit with a face-to-face encounter, thereby costing themselves and/or their insurers money unnecessarily. When RAND crunched data on CalPERS Blue Shield members who used Teledoc virtual visit services for symptoms of bronchitis, it found that <12% of patients stayed away from the doctor’s office for the same complaint; the rest used telehealth and went to a brick-and-mortar facility. Instead of saving money, the cost actually went up for the majority as a result. Urgent care operators who are looking at incorporating telehealth into their offerings should ensure their patients understand the dynamics of both scenarios, and how to decide when dialing in is adequate. Given that urgent care is built partially on the premise that it provides a cost-saving opportunity without compromising quality of care, ensuring there’s no “double dipping” by collecting fees from the same patient for the same complaints can only build credibility and good relations with insurers.
Urgent Care Needs to Educate Patients on Telemedicine