Weird symptom demonstrates cost-saving power of telehealth

September 11, 2013

Patrick Spain

My own recent illness provides an excellent demonstration of how providing convenient, quick, affordable and good healthcare options can save money for people and their employers.

A horrible stomach virus laid me low for five days. I treated it myself by getting rest and staying hydrated. Then, in the middle of the fourth night of symptoms, the palms of my hands and then the soles of my feet started itching uncontrollably. I had never had a symptom like this and I was concerned that it was an indication of something more serious. But it was 3 a.m.!

As the CEO of a telehealth company "“ and one that provides our very own telehealth services to all of our employees (including me!) "“ you would think it would dawn on me to just call a doctor with my medical question. But it didn't register right away, I'll admit. To talk to a doctor in the middle of the night is just not something I immediately thought to do.

Once it hit me, I made the call. Should I go to the urgent care clinic or maybe call an ambulance? In less than a minute, one of the 300-plus doctors who serve First Stop Health was on the line. Dr. Gifford listened to my symptoms and admitted that the itching hands and feet was an odd, but not unheard of, symptom. He assured me that it would pass shortly and that I should not dash off to the emergency room. He reminded me to keep hydrated. The itching did, in fact, pass in about 30 minutes.

I received a quick, convenient, high quality answer from my bed. And I got peace of mind. Beyond the small annual fee paid by my employer, there was no charge. I saved myself three hours in a cold E.R. waiting room, a $150 co-pay plus the first $500 of my deductible against a roughly $1,200 E.R. fee.

I also saved Blue Cross, my insurer, some money. But they never knew (since they didn't get a bill from anyone) and probably wouldn't have cared, because they would have simply passed the cost on to my company in the following year's premium increase.

Changing consumer habits is hard. But making good, cost-effective choices this convenient makes it easier. That's what First Stop Health is about: changing how people get the care they need "“ anytime, from anywhere. Telehealth is healthcare the way it should be: fast, convenient and affordable. So whether you think you have shingles, pneumonia, fibromyalgia or have any medical question, even if it's the middle of the night, First Stop Health's U.S.-based physicians are just a phone call away.

Originally published Sep 11, 2013 3:34:04 PM.