Proponents of telemedicine have reasoned that being able to see a healthcare provider virtually is more convenient and less expensive than trudging over to the closest emergency room, where a patient is likely to sit for hours and run up an astronomical bill for something simple like a sore throat. While the latter may be true (as urgent care professionals are well aware), a new study published by JAMA Network Open suggests that telehealth usage isn’t an either/or proposition when it comes to going to the ED; rather, use of telehealth may actually increase the likelihood that a patient will feel compelled to go to the ED. Using claims data from 4,038 primary care practices in Michigan, the authors concluded that “high primary care telehealth use was associated with 2.10 more emergency department visits or hospitalizations for ambulatory care” compared with what occurred with the least telehealth use. It’s important to note that many of the attributes patients associate with telehealth—again, convenience being among them—are the same ones that draw people to urgent care, so it’s unclear how the data might differ in an urgent care setting. JUCM has covered telehealth from the urgent care perspective, however. Read Using Telemedicine to Improve Throughput and Build Market Share to learn more.

Wrong Number? Telemedicine May Actually Increase the Likelihood of Reporting to the ED