In many ways, the telehealth revolution has made healthcare more accessible to people at home. It may now be safe to visit your doctor when you need to, but telehealth services can help you get the medical support you need without spending time and energy visiting a clinic.

If you’re unfamiliar with the differences between a telehealth visit and a trip to urgent care, here’s what you need to know before scheduling a visit.

What is telehealth?

Telehealth services allow you to connect with healthcare providers in real-time using technology such as video calls, emails, phone calls or texting.

Telehealth services are great for people who want to consult a doctor in the comfort of their own homes, especially when dealing with non-emergency health troubles. The benefits of telehealth include getting the medical attention you need faster, without long wait times and saving the time you would have spent driving to the healthcare provider.

What is in-person urgent care?

Urgent care centers offer medical attention to people suffering from injuries or illnesses that are not life-threatening. This includes scrapes and cuts, fractures, allergies, the flu, minor burns, headaches, diarrhea, abrasions, sprains and muscle strains, rashes and more.

Urgent care developed as a faster and cheaper alternative to an emergency room visit to provide in-person care. While urgent care clinics can’t offer treatment for life-threatening issues (like the ER can), it’s a great way to get medical attention for minor health concerns that are a part of everyday life.  

When should you choose telehealth?

Telehealth is an effective way to deal with some of the minor concerns you would typically address with your primary care physician. Fortunately, where it can take weeks or months to secure an appointment with a physician, telehealth providers are available 24/7 and you can usually book a telehealth visit the same day.

Consider telehealth services when dealing with minor cuts, abrasions or burns, rashes, abdominal pain or headaches, cough, flu, respiratory infections, nausea and more.

When should you choose in-person urgent care?

In-person urgent care visits make sense when patients require hands-on treatment such as bone-setting, wound care or stitches. Urgent care is the best option when you need lab tests, blood work, or X-rays for your condition.

Ultimately, telehealth services have their limits and cannot treat all conditions. Urgent care clinics provide a helpful middle ground for issues that are not life-threatening but also more serious than what can be addressed by telehealth.

The bottom line

The key differences between telehealth and in-person urgent care visits are the concerns each form of care can reasonably resolve. 

In-person urgent care remains the best option for issues that require immediate attention but are not life-threatening. Meanwhile, telehealth is a fast and convenient choice for relatively minor concerns.