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When to Use Virtual Doctors' Visits

You can save big compared to an in-person doctor visit or a trip to the emergency room.

Question: My health plan is offering telemedicine this year. When and why should I use this service? - J.B., Chicago

Answer: Telemedicine, which offers basic health care through virtual visits with a doctor by phone or video chat, “is ideal for minor health concerns, such as bronchitis, cold and flu, bladder and urinary tract infections, fever, pinkeye, sinus problems, sore throat, and stomachache,” says Rebecca Madsen, of UnitedHealthcare.

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You can save a lot of money by using telemedicine, especially if you’re paying the full cost of care before reaching your deductible. The median cost of a video-based doctor’s visit is $50, compared with $80 for an office visit; $125 for a visit to an urgent care facility; and $685 for an emergency-room visit, says Madsen.

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