E-visits provide more convenient alternative for non-emergencies

WASHINGTON COUNTY, TN (WJHL) – If you have a bad cough, a headache, heartburn or sinus problems, instead of going to the emergency room, some people in the Tri-Cities are visiting their doctor electronically.

Wellmont Health System has spent the last year trying to make health care more convenient through the use of E-visits.

“It takes the location and timing out of that mix, so it may really be much more convenient for you to do that,” Wellmont Medical Associates Chief Executive Medical Officer Dr. Stephen Combs said.

Dr. Combs says roughly 30 to 50 patients a month log on to a secure online portal from home and send him a message, which allows him to respond directly for non-serious health issues. It also provides solutions that allow a patient to get their care outside of the office or reaffirm a patient’s need to see a doctor in-person.

“For times that I just need some medical advice or I know what I have and I just need a refill, that’s a great way for that to work,” he said.

He says those E-visits, which cost $30, are not meant to replace annual check-ups, but are instead meant to supplement additional health care in the proper setting.

Our Community Watchdog investigation found Tennesseans spent almost $85 million in one year alone on non-emergency ER visits for TennCare recipients.

“In the end it should elevate health care, because I’m having that continued conversation with you as my patient and I’m not spending that time in the (Emergency Department) or somewhere where there’s no connectivity,” Dr. Combs said.

Dr. Combs said Wellmont is also using telemedicine, particularly for a group of 50 diabetic patients. The technology allows those patients, many of whom live in rural areas, to come to an office and talk with their doctor virtually by using something similar to a webcam, instead of driving long distances for care for their chronic health issue.

Health experts say the ER is for life and limb-threatening injuries, but as always, they recommend if you have any doubt whether you’re experiencing an emergency, you should play it safe and go to the ER.

Copyright WJHL 2017. All rights reserved.

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