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Published on September 13, 2021

Tips for Avoiding Long Waits in the Emergency Department 

Here’s how you may get care in 10 minutes or less.  


Many of the most common reasons that people come to emergency departments can be taken care of quickly and easily using virtual care. That is medical care over the phone, cellphone or computer.   

Very long waits are common in emergency departments across the country right now. This is due to the surge of unvaccinated people with COVID-19 seeking care and health care staff shortages. Virtual care allows people to save time and get help for many of the common reasons people come to emergency departments. 

“There are many conditions that I can diagnose over a computer or your cellphone. And the virtual care that I provide is both high quality and very convenient for my patients,” says Dr. Brian Miller, an emergency medicine and virtual care physician with Cone Health. “Commonly the wait times are less than 10 minutes.” 

The care is provided by a board-certified physician and often includes electronically transmitting appropriate prescriptions to the patient’s pharmacy of choice.   

Here are five conditions that Cone Health emergency department doctors often see that can be treated virtually.   

• Advice and treatment for simple COVID infections/exposures  

• Ear and eye infections 

• Skin problems (minor burns, rashes, and insect bites) 

• Cold/flu/allergy symptoms 

• Muscle or joint pain 

“Most of these types of symptoms can be managed virtually. If we determine further testing is needed to exclude a more serious condition, we will discuss that with you during your telehealth visit.” says Dr. Kevin Steinl, executive director Cone Health Emergency Medicine.   

Steinl adds that simple lab testing can often be taken care of more conveniently elsewhere. “For example, COVID testing can be completed quicker and cheaper at your neighborhood pharmacy or local urgent care. For routine pregnancy and STD testing, the health department may be a more convenient and better option.”   

Cone Health offers specialist virtual care options as well as including consultations with emergency department doctors and mental health providers.   

People wanting a virtual visit can go to care to get started. Costs are typically lower than traditional care. While virtual options are often covered by insurance, people should contact their insurer beforehand to learn more.