One of the major pushes of the ACA was to reduce the number of unnecessary emergency room visits, which plays a significant part in the increase of health care costs.  But the findings of a recent study conducted by the American College of Emergency Physicians in April 2014 were staggering.  They polled 1,800 emergency room doctors asking about the trends in ER visits they have seen since January 1, 2014.

Of the ER Doctors Polled…

  • 46% saw an increase in ER visits
  • 27% saw no noticeable change
  • 23% saw a decline in ER visits
  • 4% were unsure of the change

It doesn’t appear that an end is in sight either.  Of the doctors polled, 41% stated that over the next 3 years they expect continued growth in the number of Emergency Room visits.  Only 10% feel they have the staffing to handle this growth.  40% feel that this shortage will have a negative impact on the quality of care and patient safety.

While many visits to the emergency room are completely justifiable, there are still many that can be avoided.  46% of doctors polled point to a shortage of primary care doctors and/or an increase is non-urgent visits to the ER, as major factors.

The way in which doctors interact with patients is changing dramatically as doctor by phone services gain traction.  Telemedicine services such as AmeriDoc, allow people to talk with a doctor by phone or a web-based video session.

Why is doctor by phone telemedicine becoming so popular?

  1. High Deductibles on health insurance plans mean that people are seeing higher than normal out-of-pocket expenses.  Many times with these types of plans, a person is responsible for the entire cost of doctor visits until their deductible is met.
  2. The Cost of a telemedicine consultation varies but is typically between $30-50.  The cost is much less than an urgent care visit or trip to the ER.  There are even telemedicine plans offering unlimited consultations and no co-pay.
  3. Convenience is a driving factor in just about anything and telemedicine is no different.
  4. The Wait to see a doctor is increasing as people newly insured under the Affordable Care Act begin making appointments.  Most telemedicine services guarantee a consultation within 30 minutes of your request.
  5. Insurance Companies are starting to provide benefits for telemedicine services like AmeriDoc in an effort to reduce costs on both their and the patients part.

How can you benefit from telemedicine?

You know those minor but extremely inconvenient illnesses?  Maybe you’ve just called into work because you woke up with a throbbing headache, fever, and that annoying pressure feeling in your ear.  All tell tale signs of an ear ache.  The last thing you want is to drag yourself out of bed and into the doctors office.  That’s where telemedicine really shines.  A simple phone call or web request explaining the symptoms you’re experiencing and you receive a diagnosis – typically within 30 minutes.  And that antibiotic you need to clear up your ear infections?  It’s been called into your local pharmacy.

Telemedicine is by no means a replacement for traditional doctor care and shouldn’t be used in cases of emergencies.  However, if used properly it can really cut the costs of healthcare for many people and families.