Everyone knows, or everyone should definitely know, that only under the direst of circumstances should you call an ambulance to take you to the hospital. Ambulance rides, as fun as they may seem (they’re not really anything special), are insanely expensive, both to you and to the hospital system at large. All the people that didn’t know that are the ones that get a paper cut, dial up 911 and get an ambulance sent to their house.

Well, Houston has had enough of all these people taking advantage of the ambulance system for less than serious ailments. So, it’s decided to step into the 21st century and use technology as a remedy.

Instead of having doctors take one look at your “wound” and wonder why you even bothered coming into the ER in the first place, Houston-area doctors will now treat patients over videochat. Once they ascertain how serious your ailment actually is, they will recommend that you either a) Do go to the ER and get an ambulance; b) Go to the ER but get a cab, paid for by the city; c) Set up an appointment with a local doctor or health care specialist; or d) They’ll diagnose you right on the spot and send you on your merry way.

The reason for the video chatting and the cab rides is cost, plain and simple. It costs $1,000 to get an ambulance ride to the hospital — just to get you there. Once you get to the ER, that’ll set you back another $1,300. Getting a cab from your location to the hospital requires only a fraction of that amount, and video chatting costs even less.

Houston calls the system ETHAN, or Emergency Tele-Health and Navigation, and the city claims that it has saved over $1 million in costs since the program was first implemented in December 2014.

Another measure that could be taken to cut costs on ER visits would be if people just stopped going to the ER or calling ambulances to get to the ER. According to a 2013 study by the University of Texas, 40 percent of hospital visits in Houston’s Harris County were deemed not urgent and could’ve been handled by the patient’s primary care doctor.

ETHAN’s funding comes from the Affordable Care Act, which has a provision that supports programs that use technology to find more efficient and less costly health care.

"We're at an interesting crossroad in the U.S.," says ETHAN's program director Dr. Michael Gonzalez. "We are at the intersection of 'Can we safely triage that need?' and the emerging technologies of 'Right now, from anywhere'?"

ETHAN is not the end-all, savior of the world that it might appear as. There is a desperate need for more doctors, it doesn’t operate after 10 p.m., there is a learning curve for everyone involved, from the doctors to the patients themselves, and there is the concern that not every patient in need will have the ability to video chat.

Right now, everyone involved with ETHAN is hoping that it becomes a nation-wide norm. But until then, save everyone some money and only get that ambulance ride if it’s definitely necessary.