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TACOMA - Doctor visits are going high-tech. Tacoma-based Franciscan Health System launched a virtual urgent care service on Monday for the web and smartphones.

Patients can call or video chat with a doctor to get a diagnosis, treatment and prescriptions via sites like Skype or Facetime on iPhones and iPads.

Franciscan Health System has been offering this virtual service to its employees for the last four years. Now it s expanding the online care to patients at dozens of Washington hospitals.

Patients can have access to a doctor 24 hours a day, seven days a week for $35 -- less than the cost of an average office visit.

Doctors say the level of care for common conditions like the flu, infections and rashes is equivalent to an office visit.

This doesn't replace your primary care provider. We strive to make sure patients are using a primary care provider for many conditions. We're filling that gap when patients can't see their primary care physician, for example on the weekend, the evening or before a trip, said Dr. Ben Green with Franciscan Health Virtual Urgent Care.

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