You felt fine the night before, but you woke up this morning with a pounding headache, congestion, and what feels like a fever. Not only will you be taking a day off work, but getting to the doctor’s office will be a challenge. Maybe you can get by with a trip to the pharmacy, but choosing which over the counter remedy is yet another hurdle. Is this a cold or the flu?
The flu season is unpredictable and symptoms are miserable for a person in generally good health and can become severe for children and the elderly. It is highly contagious so the last place you want to be spending any significant time is at the urgent care or your doctor’s crowded waiting room. Get back into bed with your computer tablet to search for a telemedicine doctor instead.
If you have a sick child, send them back to bed too and keep them away from their siblings at home or exposing them to a waiting room of more germ-stricken children. A video chat appointment takes away the inconvenience of packing one or more children into the car and taking up most of your morning or afternoon.
Telemedicine service providers are easily found online. There are many to choose from and you may want to shop around for the best fit for your health needs. It takes about 20 minutes to register by downloading an app and giving them a basic health history and the reason for contacting a doctor. Have your insurance card handy because many companies cover telemedicine services for common illnesses.
You will then select an appointment time and browse a list of U.S. board certified doctors licensed to practice in your state. Simply choose to be seen as soon as possible and you will be connected by video chat within 15 minutes using your smartphone, tablet, or computer.
While you wait for the consultation to start, write down your symptoms, when they started, and any questions you may have. It will be necessary to take your temperature just before the appointment or during. List any allergies to medications and have your pharmacy information ready if a prescription needs to be called in.
Your scheduled video chat consultation will begin with the doctor briefly going over your medical history before asking about your symptoms. This is just like a regular office visit except you are face to face using a video screen for a visual assessment. You will be asked if you are experiencing chills, aches, a sore throat, headache, or fever. The doctor will note any breathing difficulty, chest pain, and whether you look pale or fatigued. They may ask about diarrhea and the ability to keep food and fluids down. You will receive an immediate diagnosis and then the doctor will move on to a treatment plan.
Both colds and flu will call for plenty of rest and fluids and some help from recommended over-the-counter (OTC) medication for a mild fever and aches or pains associated with the flu. The physician may mention avoiding aspirin products. It is possible to get anti-viral medication to either shorten or prevent flu, but otherwise, a prescription will not be needed. Telemedicine experts are only required to prescribe when medically necessary and at their discretion. They are not able to prescribe medication that is known to be addictive and must follow your state’s guidelines.
The flu virus takes between 5 and 7 days and a cold can last up 14 days before it is completely gone. In this case, you have peace of mind knowing that it is not something more serious and the correct OTC medicine will help you feel better faster. If the diagnosis involved a young child or older person you will have held off a more serious infection or possible emergency care by finding out early. Telemedicine is not used for emergency situations. You will be directed, instead, to dial 911 or go to your local hospital or urgent care.
Your records from telemedicine visits are shared electronically with your primary physician and all of your personal data is securely encrypted online and protected by HIPAA law. This will help should you need any follow-up treatment if you are not feeling better within a few days. You will receive treatment instructions by email to be sure you understood the physician’s diagnosis and treatment plan. You will also have up to seven days to ask any further questions regarding your illness. The benefits of telemedicine are clear when it comes to saving time and money. Video chats allow you to be seen in minutes and get back to your daily routine quicker.
How Telemedicine Services Can Treat the Flu, 2016. http://www.urgentcare.com/news/telemedicine-services-can-treat-flu/
Fool’s Cold: Do you Really have a Cold? Or is it Actually the Flu? 2016. https://www.fshealth.com/blog/telemedicine-benefits-cold-or-flu