If you’re feeling unwell but your regular doctor isn’t an option, know that you have another option besides the emergency room or urgent care for nonemergency issues. Virtual care.

Medical professionals’ practice much of today’s care with a smart phone or tablet, through video or even by email. We call this virtual care. Many users love virtual care because it’s quick. There’s no wait time, you simply use your computer, phone or other device to either chat, email or video conference a licensed medical professional. They can make a diagnosis and write prescriptions in a matter of minutes. These medical professionals are the same doctors you’d find in your doctor’s office. They can often diagnose illnesses based on your symptoms alone.

You can access virtual care through different healthcare technology providers apps including MD Live and Teladoc. Virtual visits offer you care anytime, anywhere, without ever having to leave your bed or couch. You can still see your regular doctor in person, but in many ways getting care virtually is no different than seeing a doctor in person. Virtual care providers are licensed medical professionals and, like your doctor you see in person. They can make a diagnosis and write prescriptions.

In response to the COVID-19 outbreak, health insurer Priority Health announced expanding its existing $0 copay virtual care to include all lines of business through April 30. This means that people now have virtual access to medical professionals for non-emergency care, at no additional cost. I encourage anyone who has access to utilize virtual care amid the COVID-19 outbreak to mitigate further spread of the illness and to avoid overwhelming Michigan health care facilities.

Virtual visits are ideal for nights, weekends, holidays, or when you can’t get to your regular doctor’s office and need medical care. They’re a great option if you’re without access to care and can’t get in to see your regular doctor right away, or you live in a remote area, or travel frequently. It’s not the right option when you or a loved one needs an X-ray or lab work.

So how do you know when to visit the emergency room or urgent care and which are appropriate for your regular doctor or virtual care? Virtual care is a great option for:

·       Allergies, bites and stings

·       Sore throat, fever and headache

·       Cold, cough and flu

·       Diarrhea and heartburn

·       Earache

·       Pink eye, rashes and hives

·       Urgent care

If you have a non-life-threatening condition that can’t wait for a doctor visit, go to an urgent care center. The emergency room is designed to treat those who need immediate care and cannot wait for a doctor appointment. People who visit the ER are experiencing serious, hazardous, harmful and potentially fatal conditions such as:

·       Bleeding that won’t stop

·       Pain in the chest or one arm

·       Poisoning or drug overdose

·       Seizure or slurred speech

·       Major broken bones

The next time you’re faced nonemergency illness and can’t get in to see your doctor, try virtual care for a quick and easy alternative to the ER or urgent care. Check with your doctor’s office to see if they provide virtual care.