A “must have” addition to your packing list for this summer’s family trip won’t take up any suitcase space. It’s an app for your smart phone that gives you access to a board certified telemedicine physician from wherever you happen to be sightseeing.

“The ideal situation for getting medical care is when a patient sees his or her own doctor in person,” said Richard Vienne, D.O., Univera Healthcare vice president and chief medical officer. “But when the family is away and somebody feels under the weather, a telemedicine visit can salvage the vacation for everyone!”

Telemedicine is a speedy alternative to going to an urgent care center or even a hospital emergency room for minor medical conditions. It allows people who are away from home to see a qualified physician when they need to address a problem for themselves or their children.

Remote medical care, known as telemedicine, is when the patient and the provider are in two different locations but linked by telephone or a secure two-way video connection.

Upstate New Yorkers are expected to use telemedicine more than 50,000 times by the year 2018, Univera Healthcare officials predict. Advances in clinical decision-making; the evolution of customer-friendly apps for smartphones, tablets and computers; and more people having high-deductible health insurance policies are the most frequently cited reasons driving the telemedicine trend.

While telemedicine services are available to anyone with or without health insurance, easy-to-use platforms are being built into most health insurance offerings. MDLIVE is the in-network telemedicine provider offered by Univera Healthcare to all privately-insured and Medicare Advantage members.

Relying on New York State Department of Health data labeled “potentially preventable” emergency room visits, Univera Healthcare found that 10 common conditions represent more than two million annual visits to hospital emergency rooms statewide, and nine out of 10 of those visits could have been avoided or treated elsewhere, including with a telemedicine visit.

“If you’re away from home this summer on a family trip, and somebody in your group needs immediate treatment for a minor medical condition, telemedicine providers can address most of the common conditions and even prescribe medicine when medically indicated,” said Vienne. “I urge everyone to learn more about telemedicine by asking their health insurer, or by visiting the telemedicine provider that Univera Healthcare recommends for its members at www.MDLIVE.com.