Urgent Care Vs. Telemedicine: Which Costs Employers Less?

March 24, 2016

Will Rumsey

Today’s healthcare is a great example of Moore’s Law. Simply put, the law states that technology will double itself every two years on an exponential basis.

Now what does this tech babble have to do with healthcare? As healthcare technology develops exponentially, we will see a quickening in the use of technology in alternative care delivery, increasing convenience and reducing cost.

Urgent care centers used to be the most convenient way to see a doctor (especially when your primary care doctor is not available). Today, they are being replaced by telemedicine; an even more convenient and cost-effective way to seek non-emergency healthcare.

Healthcare is Changing

Urgent care centers can now be found just about everywhere, and are a convenient and inexpensive alternative to the emergency room. There are currently nearly 7,100 urgent care centers in the U.S. and growing.

Telemedicine, on the other hand, has been around for quite a while, but is just now becoming the first choice for people who have non-emergency health issues. It’s been listed as one of the upcoming benefits trends to watch in 2016.

Why telemedicine is a natural growth area in the healthcare industry

Healthcare costs are out of control and increasing annually. Some of the increasing costs are related to unnecessary care. Telemedicine right-sizes care in a convenient and cost-effective manner. Need stitches? Or a cast set? Urgent care is a great alternative to the ER for non-life threatening and non-limb threatening conditions (if it’s truly serious, the ER is still a good bet). But for sinus issues, colds, influenzas, pink eye, UTIs, and more, telemedicine can diagnose and treat common health issues in a matter of minutes.


The average cost of an urgent care visit is around $155 for each individual visit. At First Stop Health, we’ve even figured out a way to provide zero-cost telemedicine to employers and their employees.  An average 1,000-person company can save more than $20,000 in avoided urgent care visits by implementing a telemedicine benefit.


When you head to an urgent care, you are at the mercy of the waiting room. You sit and wait with other sick people for your turn to see a doctor. Telemedicine eliminates waiting and allows patients to avoid being exposed to other people’s illnesses. With telemedicine, the wait can be less than 10 minutes to talk to a U.S.-based licensed doctor, which helps employees get back to work faster and continue to be productive.

Technology is adding convenience to all aspects of life, but especially in healthcare. While telemedicine isn’t a replacement for in-person care for all health issues, it can be used to increase convenience and reduce cost for non-emergency health issues.

When you are not sure if you need to head to the urgent care center or even the ER, a telemedicine doctor can advise you on the most appropriate level of care, possibly saving you the trip and money spent.

As the cherry on top, it also drives incredible savings for the employers who would otherwise pay a healthcare claim for unnecessary visits. That’s a technological advance we can all get behind.

Originally published Mar 24, 2016 12:00:00 PM.