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A Doctor’s View of Emergency Rooms and Doctor On Demand

Have you ever had to go to an emergency room over the weekend because you were feeling sick and your doctor was unavailable? While heading to the ER may seem like the easiest option when you need care immediately, did you know that Doctor On Demand can effectively treat many common reasons people go to the ER, and in less time?

Dr. Tony Yuan is a physician with Doctor On Demand as well as an ER doctor in the San Francisco Bay Area. This means that he treats dozens of patients a day either in person or over video, giving him a unique perspective on these two treatment settings. We chatted with him a bit to gather his take on their similarities and differences, as well as some guidance on when to use which.

Q: How long have you been practicing medicine, both as an ER doctor and with Doctor On Demand?

I have been practicing medicine in an emergency room setting for over 19 years, and I joined Doctor On Demand over 3 years ago. While on the surface these two experiences can seem very different from each other, there is actually quite a bit of overlap in the cases that I see.

Q: We know from our patients’ experiences that many trips to the ER can be avoided, but is this in-line with what you’ve seen in your career?

I definitely agree that half or more of all cases seen in the ER can be treated through Doctor On Demand. A majority of patients come to the ER because they either do not have access to healthcare or their primary care doctor is booked. It is not necessarily because they are in need of emergency care.

Q: That can be a tough distinction, though. How do patients know whether they should head to the ER or see a doctor like you through Doctor On Demand?

Virtual visits, like seeing a doctor through video, is revolutionary in its convenience and delivery model, but it still does have its limitations. Since the doctor is not physically in the same room, things like serious cuts and broken bones obviously would not be treatable virtually. Also, potentially life-threatening symptoms such as severe chest or abdominal pains, difficulty breathing, or a sudden onset of a combination of unexplainable symptoms should definitely be treated at an ER as soon as possible.

Q: So should Doctor On Demand be used for minor illnesses, then?

Well, that depends on what you consider minor. Common issues I’ve seen in the ER include the flu and bronchitis, and if you’ve ever had these in the past, they can certainly feel pretty major! Other patients I see regularly are ones with sore throats, skin rashes, sinus infections, UTIs… Basically, the common statistic we hold is 90% of the top 20 reasons people head to the ER can be effectively treated through Doctor On Demand.

Q: All this, and the patient doesn’t even have to leave the house.

Not only that, but ER visits can be expensive even with insurance coverage. A visit with Doctor On Demand saves the patient money, time, and keeps them out of hospital waiting rooms, where germs can run rampant!

Q: Thank you, Dr. Yuan for clarifying! Finally, what has been your favorite or most surprising thing about working at Doctor On Demand?

This may sound unbelievable, but both my favorite and most surprising thing about working with Doctor On Demand is how much more of a personal connection I can make with patients. In an ER, there can be so many distractions, such as nurses or other healthcare providers working with other patients. Time with patients is always limited since ERs are so busy. When I’m with a patient through Doctor On Demand, it is true face-to-face time with them, one-on-one and uninterrupted.

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Tony Yuan, MD.png.300x300_q85_box-0,0,2328,2328_crop_detailDr. Tony Yuan received his Bachelor degree from Cornell University and received his medical degree from University of California San Diego School of Medicine. He completed his emergency medicine residency at Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte, NC and has been practicing emergency medicine in California for over 17 years.

Dr. Yuan has treated tens of thousands of patients during his career as an emergency physician. He is able to handle not only traumas, but also almost every other imaginable acute and non-acute illness or injury. He can effectively treat patients from simple colds and sprains to those who have life-threatening medical and traumatic emergencies. Dr. Yuan joined Doctor on Demand in November 2013.