Chat with doctors to avoid ER visits and costly co-pays

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DENVER -- The Centers for Disease Control reports approximately 140 million people visit the emergency room each year and about 9 percent end up having to be hospitalized.

Telemedicine is providing a remedy for those who want to save time and avoid costly co-pays when a trip to the ER isn’t necessary.

Kaiser Permanente’s “Chat With A Doctor” feature allows patients to get real time medical advice from doctors who have access to their medical records.

New mom Jessica Ruiz tells FOX31 she used the feature when her three-and-a-half month old daughter developed flu-like symptoms, “I realized that taking her into the emergency room  might expose her to even more germs.”

She contacted a pediatrician on her app and received immediate home care instructions.

The doctor answered questions during the next week, until Jessica’s baby was well again.

Ruiz says as a busy professional with a child (and now another on the way) being able to avoid unnecessary trips to the ER is extremely valuable.

Instead of paying an emergency room co-pay, there was no charge for the doctor’s advice through the chat feature. Kaiser Permanente Director of Hospital Services Sara Tracy tells the FOX31 Problem Solvers healthcare chat apps are designed to make medical care more efficient, which benefits everyone. “(One may ask) does this need stitches or do I just need to find a good band-aid? You can take a picture of that cut,  send it to us and we can provide you with some advice.”

Or the doctor can recommend you visit the emergency room right away.

Of course, Tracy emphasizes that telemedicine isn’t recommended for every emergency, “If you're having crushing chest pain, if you can't breathe,  if your husband just cut his hand off with a table saw, please don't use chat, this is not a substitute for 911.”

The service also provides medical assistance from obstetrics and gynecology physicians, pharmacists and mental health experts who utilize access to your medical records to provide the best advice.

Patients can even chat with financial advisors in the comfort of their home so they can plan for upcoming procedures.

Telemedicine is expected to be the norm within five years, so check with your health care provider to see if they offer the service as well.


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