Emergency room visits cost an average of $1,233, making it an expensive option for both employees and employers. For the employee, it means high co-pays, a long wait in a crowded emergency room, and the possibility of catching a virus while waiting. For the employer, it results in employee absenteeism, and increased insurance cost. Self-insured companies also see their health budget pool drop, as more people go to the emergency room unnecessarily.
The difficulty in making the right decision on whether or not an emergency room visit is needed, however, stems from the fact that most of us are not trained in medicine: we cannot evaluate if symptoms are serious. Missing something may mean more complications in the future. Through Continuwell, employees have the option to speak with a Registered Nurse regarding their symptoms for free anytime. Nurses are specially trained to ask specific and targeted questions to determine if the safest place for the caller is at home or the emergency room or something in between. Many times, our nurses are able to redirect the caller to a safer and less expensive treatment option that allows them to stay home and treat their symptoms. The nurses also provide information to educate employees on the symptoms that they should monitor. For cases that do not require a visit to the emergency room but still require a physician, patients have the option to wait to see their doctor the next day, or they can pay to speak with the telehealth doctor for advice or prescriptions that day.
Does the Pain Require an Emergency Room Visit?
Anna is a 57 year-old experiencing urinary pain, that started over 2 weeks ago. She was prescribed a 10-day course of antibiotics when she visited her physician close to the onset of symptoms, but her pain and frequent urination continued. Tonight, she began experiencing left sided flank pain, nausea, and severe pain with urination.
She contacted the Continuwell nurse to check in her symptoms. She told the nurse that she “needed to urinate all the time, but only a drop of urine came out each time”. In addition to these symptoms, Anna also felt chilled, experienced a weakness in her legs, and it was very uncomfortable for her to sit.
Anna works in construction and her co-pays are high for emergency room visits. She is a single mother of two teenagers, so money is tight. While she was concerned about her symptoms worsening, she certainly didn’t want to waste money if she could call her physician in the morning.
In a short, ten to twelve-minute conversation, Continuwell nurses must gather enough information about the patient’s current symptoms, pertinent past medical history, and any other significant circumstances, such as if the patient is able and willing to comply with the recommended plan, to properly advise them.
It was evident within minutes of talking to Anna that her symptoms did warrant an emergency room visit. With the reassurance of the nurse, Anna did go in and was seen quickly. She was diagnosed with a kidney infection. If she hadn’t talked with her telehealth nurse and had waited overnight, her condition could have worsened to the point she would have needed to be admitted for IV antibiotics.
Anna’s scenario is a good lesson for us all. She didn’t want to unnecessarily go to the emergency room, and the Continuwell nurse was able to encourage and reassure Anna that she was getting the safest and most appropriate care by going into the emergency room that night. The nurse was also able to fax her documented encounter to Anna’s physician, so that the office was aware, and had an appointment saved for her. This not only saved Anna time, but also made it as easy and seamless as possible for her. Continuwell nurses are available 24/7 to speak with employees concerning their symptoms and advise them on the next course of action to take. No symptom or pain is too small to call our nurses; all are taken seriously.
If you are interested in finding out more about how you can provide your employees with our Continuwell services and how trips to the emergency room can be prevented, please contact us for more information.
 Caldwell N, Srebotnjak T, Wang T, Hsia R (2013) ‘‘How Much Will I get Charged for This?’’ Patient Charges for Top Ten Diagnoses in the Emergency Department. PLoS ONE 8(2): e55491. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0055491
 name and other identifying information has been changed to protect the privacy of the caller.