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On-Demand and Emergency Care Management

June 6, 2017

Choosing a care option for an urgent need can be confusing and stressful; it can also be expensive for both employers and employees. On-Demand and Emergency Care options (Virtual Visits, Minute-Clinics, urgent cares, and freestanding emergency departments) are changing and more and more members are choosing care via a walk-in model.1

Emergency rooms (ERs), being the most robust (24-hour access, easy-to-find, highly trained staff) and generally the highest cost On-Demand Care option, are too frequently the choice of members who could receive care in a much lower cost setting – and often in a more consumer-friendly experience.

Care Example: A 24-year-old female has a severe cold - runny nose, congestion, cough and fatigue. She goes to an ER where vital signs are normal. Examination shows redness in the throat and retraction of ear drums. Lungs are clear. A chest x-ray and complete blood count are both done, and both are normal. No additional lab, x-ray or other interventions are performed. Patient is discharged with a recommendation to use over-the-counter (OTC) decongestants and follow up with their primary care physician (PCP), if needed.

This visit cost $2,000. A PCP or urgent care visit would cost less than $200 – saving 90 percent. A $40 Virtual Visit would have saved 98 percent. Twenty-five percent of ER visits are for conditions that are frequently treated in a Virtual Visit setting. Sixty percent of ER visits are for non-emergent conditions that are frequently treated in a mix of PCP offices, urgent cares, convenient cares, and Virtual Visits.

With the changing On-Demand Care landscape, UnitedHealthcare is helping build an improved set of options for On-Demand and Emergency Care Management to address rising ER costs, as well as help ensure an optimal consumer experience and decision process. Employers can help take the lead through employer-sponsored initiatives focused on:

  • Benefit design and consumer incentives to help enable use of the appropriate level of care
  • Easier, broad access to On-Demand alternatives
  • Employee education and engagement to help raise awareness and understanding of options

Complementary Check-Choose-Go Toolbox

  • Posters, fliers, and emails - promoting ER alternatives care options
  • Access to the "Check-Choose-Go" website to CHECK options for care, CHOOSE a care provider and GO for better health
  • Two levels of customization to help meet specific employer needs are also available for an additional cost

Early adopters of Check-Choose-Go see favorable leading indicators. Average monthly website visits are currently five percent above benchmark.2 To find and compare quick care options, visit

Virtual Visits
Virtual Visits, with 24/7 access, is a model that allows members to see and speak to a doctor using their mobile device or computer – may be a major opportunity for employers. A recent study showed that 97.5 percent of parents who have tried an online doctor visit for their child rated the experience as equal to or better than an in-office visit.

With increased member awareness, Virtual Visit monthly volumes for UnitedHealthcare doubled between August and December 2016. With 25 percent of ER visits being for conditions treatable by a Virtual Visit, raising awareness of Virtual Visits – with certified doctors, who can write prescriptions* if needed, and are available 24/7 – is an important step to help enable consumers to understand their full range of On-Demand Care options.

For more information, contact your UnitedHealthcare representative.

*Prescription services may not be available in all states.


1 2016 vs. 2015 utilization. UnitedHealthcare analysis, all commercial except exchanges, facility ER trend vs. other sites of care. May 2017.
2 UnitedHealthcare analysis of website utilization. May 2017.