We use smartphones and tablets for nearly everything we do and now health care is no exception. Telemedicine is the new future of health care that enables both patients and doctors to deal with minor illnesses, such as colds, in a virtual setting. Patients can save valuable time using this convenience and doctors have more space in their offices for other patients who might be seriously ill.
An experienced and licensed telemedicine doctor can evaluate your symptoms to be certain you are suffering a common cold instead of something potentially more serious like the flu. Colds can disrupt our lives, especially when they affect our children. Telemedicine lets you or your child stay dressed in pajamas or snuggled in bed for the appointment. When you are sick, the last thing you want to do is get dressed and leave the house to sit in a waiting room full of more ill people.
Making sure a cold is not actually the flu can be difficult to determine due to their similar symptoms. It is not a big concern unless you are in a high-risk category such as the elderly and small children. If you are, early diagnosis is very important to avoid potential emergency room visits. Flu symptoms include chills, body aches, fever, a sore throat, and headache. Cold symptoms can include the same, but often involve a stuffy nose, congestion, and sneezing too.
Telemedicine offers face-to-face video appointments from any location. It allows you to talk with a board certified doctor in your state to assess your symptoms and physical appearance and make a diagnosis. This speeds the process of starting your treatment and recovery and may even cost less.
Simply register online with the telemedicine company of your choice and select a certified doctor licensed to work in your state. The service will ask for a brief medical history and any health insurance information. Insurance is not required, but if you have it, your telemedicine appointment may be covered. You will then set the actual appointment time to begin your video chat. This may only be a few minutes from your time of registration. You can use your computer, tablet, or download a free app for your smartphone.
Look for a quiet space to conduct your video conference. It’s a good idea to make a list of any questions you want to ask the doctor along with a list of your symptoms, when they began, and any questions you may have. Take your temperature before starting your appointment and mention any allergies to medications. The doctor begins by going over your symptoms and will be making a visual assessment of your physical appearance during your session in order to deliver the correct treatment plan quickly and conveniently.
If it’s just a common cold, a prescription medication will not help to cure it, but the doctor can provide a treatment plan for you that will ease your symptoms and enable you to get better faster. You can also eliminate the nagging fear of having something more serious.
Once the doctor has given you a diagnosis and detailed instructions to follow, they will answer any questions. The doctor will call or digitally request your prescriptions at the pharmacy you would normally use. Prescriptions are given at the doctor’s discretion only. You will also receive your treatment plan details in a follow-up email.
The treatment prescribed for most patients, whether it is a cold or flu, will generally require lots of fluid, rest, over the counter (OTC) fever-reducers and pain-relievers (non-aspirin). The common cold cannot be treated by prescription medication, but a doctor can give you options on OTC medications that will work best for you. Anti-viral medications may shorten the course of the flu, but viruses are not affected by antibiotics. It takes about 10 to 14 days to completely recover.
Most telemedicine services will allow up to seven days for you to contact them with any further questions you may have forgotten to ask during your appointment. By consulting a telemedicine doctor about your symptoms, you can rule out other infections. Remember that telehealth is designed for minor illnesses and not intended to replace a doctor’s visit in a possible emergency situation. In that case, the doctor would advise you to visit your primary physician or specialist and even head to your nearest emergency room. Telemedicine reduces the time it takes for a quick diagnosis so you can get back to more important aspects of your life.
First Stop Health, Fool’s Cold: Do You Really Have a Cold or is it Actually the Flu? https://www.fshealth.com/blog/telemedicine-benefits-cold-or-flu
Dovey, D., Medical Daily, 2015. Telemedicine is the Future of Health Care, On-Call Docs to Examine, Diagnose, and Treat Patients Remotely, http://www.medicaldaily.com/telemedicine-future-health-care-call-docs-examine-diagnose-and-treat-patients-331914
How Telemedicine Services Can Treat a Cold, 2016.