By Richard Vienne, D.O.

Having a first-year college student come home for holiday break is exciting for parents. The wide-eyed freshman you delivered to the university last fall has returned as a savvy collegian for the first extended visit back home.

Your student learned to balance academic life and social life; he/she is able to get up, get fed, get to class and get to bed without your supervision! But while your child has matured into an independent young adult, he/she still is your baby, and that’s never more apparent than when he/she is feeling under the weather.

When your college student is home, seeing a physician is easy. Away

at school and without a car, however, getting needed medical care is more complicated. But, it doesn’t need to be. Before your student heads back for the new semester, the entire family should log on to your health insurer’s website to learn how to arrange on-demand medical care using telemedicine.

Telemedicine is when the patient and the provider are in two different locations but linked by telephone or a secure two-way video connection that’s similar to Skype or FaceTime. Most health insurers in upstate New York, including Univera Healthcare, have in-network telemedicine providers and loads of information online. Many traditional medical practices also offer telemedicine services, so check with your family doctor.

When your student is sick, an on-demand telemedicine visit from the comfort of his/her dorm room surely beats walking across a campus to sit and wait at the school’s health clinic or not get care at all

Telemedicine is available whenever and wherever he/she may be, including on spring break or away for a weekend adventure with friends.

Most minor medical conditions can be addressed with a telemedicine visit, and medications can be prescribed when medically indicated. Relying on New York State Department of Health data, Univera found that of about 6 million emergency room visits in our state in a given year, more than 2 million can be addressed with a telemedicine visit for common conditions, including rash, ear or sinus infections, sore throats, colds/flu, pink eye and UTIs, to list just a few.

Telemedicine isn’t just for college kids. Everyone can benefit from having on-demand 24/7/365 access to care for minor medical conditions when in-person care isn’t possible or convenient. Univera predicts that more than 50,000 telemedicine visits will have taken place in our region by the end of 2018.

Before your student heads back to college for the new semester, make time for the entire family to learn about telemedicine by visiting your health insurer’s website or

Richard Vienne, D.O., is Univera Healthcare vice president and chief medical officer.