When you need care, you have options. But every option has its pros, cons, and costs.
Virtual Primary Care (Sherpaa)
Pros: Within a few minutes, you’ll be chatting with your own Sherpaa doctor you always work with. They can order lab and imaging tests and prescribe most medications, all within the app and without an office visit. That means Sherpaa doctors can diagnose and treat ~1,500 conditions (95% of things an office-based PCP can manage). Also, no confusing bills and co-pays. It’s just one flat rate for unlimited care for a month or a year.
Cons: Sherpaa cannot do procedures (like stitches) and manage the very small number of issues that absolutely need a physical exam to diagnose.
Cost: $99 for one month or $270 per year for unlimited primary and urgent care from Sherpaa
Office-Based Primary Care Doctor
Pros: They’re competent experts who can examine you, do minor procedures, and take care of you over time.
Cons: You pay a co-pay + get confusing bills from them each time you need them. Also, you can’t just walk in and get care. If you move or switch insurance, you have to find a new one.
Cost: $200 (co-pay + bills if you have a deductible) + hours of travel and office time
Urgent care center
Pros: You can just walk in. They’re cheaper and less of a hassle than an ER. They can do x-rays and simple procedures like stitches.
Cons: Because they’re convenient, they charge a premium. They’re a higher co-pay + bills than a PCP. If you need follow-up on an issue, you either follow-up with them or a PCP and pay for each visit.
Cost: $300 (co-pay + bills if you have a deductible) + a few hours of travel and sitting around time.
Pros: They’re the cream of the crop for true emergencies. They are often miracle workers.
Cons: They’re ridiculously expensive, crowded, and you’ll spend your whole day there.
Cost: $2,000 (co-pay + bills if you have a deductible) + many hours just sitting around
Pros: They are the experts.
Cons: You pay a more expensive co-pay + get confusing bills from them each time you need them. They make more money off you by doing more tests and procedures. They essentially “spend” your money for you and it’s out of your control. There’s typically a few weeks wait for an appointment. You might not know which kind of specialist you may need.
Cost: $250 (co-pay + bills if you have a deductible) + hours of travel and office time
Nurse clinic in a pharmacy
Pros: They’re located in neighborhoods and you can just walk in. It’s typically a fixed fee like $79 for a visit + the cost of the medication at the pharmacy.
Cons: They are restricted to ~30 simple diagnoses like colds and sniffles. If there’s any doubt about what you have, they’ll refer you to a more competent professional and you’ll then have to pay again.
Cost: $80 (co-pay + bills if you have a deductible)
Video/Phone visit (Doctor on Demand or Teladoc)
Pros: Within a few minutes you can talk with a random doctor via phone or video.
Cons: Since they’re limited to a short conversation with a random doctor, they can only diagnose and treat ~30 very simple things like pink eye. There’s a very high chance you’ll waste your money. If they can’t help you, they tell you to see someone else to get help.
Pros: If you are very sure you have one of the 8 or so diagnoses, and answering their questions confirms you do, you can cheaply get a prescription in a matter of hours.
Cons: You can only use them for about 8 simple diagnoses.
Cost: $15 – $25 per visit or $15/month for oral contraceptives