It is hard to tell whether you are experiencing a cold, flu, or even strep throat when the symptoms can start out feeling very similar. Finding out as early as possible can help to recover quickly and avoid potentially spreading the illness to others at home and work. Thinking about making an appointment and giving up valuable time to drive across town and sit in a waiting room, and knowing the doctor’s actual examination will likely only be five minutes long, is aggravating.
Telemedicine is a much easier option. You can have a diagnosis and treatment within a few minutes by talking to a U.S. board-certified doctor, licensed to practice in your state, available by video chat. All you need is a smartphone, computer or tablet, the time to download an app, and you can see a doctor from any location of your choice including your own home. This is especially handy for sick children.
Telemedicine services are listed online. There are plenty to choose from and prices and plans may vary. Choose the one that works best for your medical situation. When you contact them, you will be asked to register by providing basic health history information, insurance coverage that may apply, and the reason for your call. It should take no more than 20 minutes. Once you’ve selected your physician from the list of participating doctors in your state, you will set the time for the appointment which can occur in as few as 15 minutes.
It is advised to write down your symptoms, when they first started, local pharmacy contact information for prescriptions, any allergies to medications, and questions you would like to remember to ask. Being prepared helps the video chat consultation to save you on time and money. Take your temperature about 15 minutes before or during your appointment. Pick a comfortable, quiet spot with good lighting to conduct the visit.
As soon as you take the face-to-face video call at the time you selected, your doctor will immediately go over the health history on your registration and begin asking about symptoms just like a regular office visit. Questions will include whether you have a fever, throat swelling, any pus, or coughing. You may be asked to open your mouth so the doctor can visually assess the interior of your throat to confirm clues leading to the diagnosis of strep. A culture will not be possible during the telemedicine visit, but it is often clear to a physician when an illness is bacterial versus viral.
Strep throat is caused by a bacteria called Streptococcus and responds to penicillin. Other antibiotics can be substituted in the case of a penicillin allergy. Things that distinguish it from viral colds and flu are a sore throat or pain with tenderness at the lymph nodes in the neck, difficulty swallowing, whitish pus on the back of the throat, red swollen tonsils, fever, nausea, and a possibility of a rash or vomiting.
If the doctor determines you have strep throat, they will prescribe antibiotics and be able to call it into your pharmacy of choice for the fastest available pickup. Once you begin taking the medication you are no longer contagious, but complete the course of antibiotics to avoid a relapse. You may combine over the counter (OTC) medication to relieve symptoms of pain and fever.
Sore throats caused by a cold or flu virus do not respond to antibiotics. Over the counter medications for cold and flu will alleviate symptoms, but the virus will usually run its course in roughly seven days. The doctor may recommend the products they feel will work best.
If the diagnosis of strep throat seems unclear to the physician for any reason, it may be necessary to obtain a throat culture to confirm the diagnosis. The next step will be a recommendation to your primary physician or medical facility to obtain a throat swab.
After you have received a treatment plan, the doctor will ask if you have any questions. You will have up to seven days for any additional questions you may have forgotten. You will receive an email with treatment instructions and follow-up as well. All services are secure and completed according to HIPAA guidelines to maintain the privacy of your medical records.
More serious illness or injury will be referred to the nearest emergency room. Video consultations are for common ailments that are easily identified and treated. They help keep you out the physician’s office so that people with more complicated health issues can be seen by the doctor in person. Telemedicine is often less expensive than a regular office visit and an alternative that makes treatment quick and convenient for everyone.
Gifford, C., and Strange, C., How Do Doctors Diagnose Strep Throat Over Telemedicine? https://www.quora.com/How-do-doctors-diagnose-strep-throat-over-telemedicine
Raihana, A., How Do You Treat Strep Throat? https://www.quora.com/How-do-you-treat-strep-throat
How Telemedicine Services Can Treat Strep Throat, 2016. http://www.urgentcare.com/news/telemedicine-services-can-treat-strep-throat/