video call with doctor

As telehealth or telemedicine has become more popular over the past few years, there is now an additional question to ask when scheduling with your health care provider: Should this visit be an in-person or video visit?

Now that video visits are more widely available, you have more options than ever to find the best appointment that fits your needs.

Still, it can sometimes be difficult to make the choice of whether an appointment needs to be in-person or if it can be taken from the comfort of your own home.

Here are some tips for making that decision.

Emergencies

You can take one decision off the table quickly: If you have a medical emergency, you should seek immediate medical care. Do not wait to schedule with any provider, in-person or via a video visit.

Seek emergency help at a hospital or call 911 right away.

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Non Emergencies

There are very few non-emergency conditions that cannot be at least started with a video visit. If you are uncertain as to whether a video visit would be appropriate, it is best to consult with your provider. You can do this by phone or by using the messaging feature in your UPMC patient portal app. With messaging, you can ask your provider questions or even submit photos for your provider to review. This extra information can help make the virtual vs. in-person decision easier.

A few of the more common scenarios where a video appointment is often a good fit include:

  • You’re not feeling well, and you want to talk to the doctor about your symptoms.
  • You have a suspicious rash or a possibly infected wound or sore, and you need someone to look at it.
  • Your doctor needs to discuss your lab tests related to a chronic condition, such as diabetes or congestive heart failure.
  • You are anxious, depressed, or having a mental health issue and you want to talk to your doctor.
  • You have a medical question for your doctor or want to talk about how your medications are working.
  • You need a followup- appointment after a procedure or hospitalization.
  • You need a referral to a specialist.

In addition to offering increased convenience (less travel time, parking expenses, etc.), video visits can also offer other benefits, such as the ability to meet with a provider sooner than if scheduling
in person. Discuss these considerations with your provider to help you make the best decision.

Different Types of Video Visits

If you decide that a video appointment is right for you, there are also different options available, depending on your needs. UPMC has two different types of virtual care: scheduled video visits, and unscheduled care.

You have a choice of UPMC patient portals for care based on your location.

Scheduled Video Visits

Video visits, where available, can be scheduled with a primary care expert or a specialist. Although it is typical to have an existing relationship with these doctors beforehand, some do accept video visits for new patients.

These visits are usually reserved for nonemergency checkups and prescription renewals.

Visit Find a Doctor, UPMC’s provider directory, to set up a video visit appointment with a provider that meets your health care needs at a time that works best for you.

Unscheduled virtual urgent care

  • Virtual urgent care services can be accessed through the UPMC AnywhereCare app. AnywhereCare should be used for nonemergency situations, such as colds, sore throats, strains and sprains, ear pain, arthritis symptoms, etc. Unlike scheduled video visits, appointments are not required for AnywhereCare. You can choose to see a specific provider, or simply choose to see the next available provider. This is a great option if you do not have a primary care provider (PCP). Virtual urgent care is available for adults and children (through Children’s AnywhereCare).
  • On-Demand Express Care Video Visits , for UPMC patients in central Pa., can be accessed through the UPMC Central PA portal. Like AnywhereCare, the service should be used for flu ,COVID-19 symptoms or general, non-urgent symptoms. On-Demand Express Care Visits are available Monday through Sunday 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Wait times will vary by day and time.

Telemedicine at UPMC

If you’re interested in learning more about telemedicine, visit the UPMC Telemedicine website.

Sources

ACR-Telemedicine-Fact-Sheet-2020.pdf (rheumatology.org)

Telemedicine-Position-Statement.pdf (rheumatology.org)

Advantages and utilization of telemedicine (nih.gov)

UPMC Telemedicine Services | Serving Pennsylvania and Beyond

Guide to Telemedicine Services and Video Visits | UPMC HealthBeat

What Is UPMC Children's AnywhereCare? | UPMC HealthBeat

About UPMC

Headquartered in Pittsburgh, UPMC is a world-renowned health care provider and insurer. We operate 40 hospitals and 800 doctors’ offices and outpatient centers, with locations throughout Pennsylvania, Maryland, New York, West Virginia, and internationally. We employ 4,900 physicians, and we are leaders in clinical care, groundbreaking research, and treatment breakthroughs. U.S. News & World Report consistently ranks UPMC Presbyterian Shadyside as one of the nation’s best hospitals in many specialties and ranks UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh on its Honor Roll of America’s Best Children’s Hospitals. We are dedicated to providing Life Changing Medicine to our communities.