When Should You Get an Online Doctor Consultation?
Regular health checks are important in health promotion and disease prevention. Timely in-person consultations with your primary care physician contribute to the early discovery and treatment of a health issue, preventing major and potentially life-threatening health complications.
However, illness and injury come unannounced. And when you are injured or ill, you will definitely need urgent medical care. What happens when you are too far from a walk-in urgent care facility or can’t schedule an in-person visit with your primary care physician? What do you do?
Online consultations with your doctor
Thanks to the advancements in health technology, it is now possible to have an online doctor consultation. This means you can have a two-way, face-to-face consultation with a certified physician over the internet. In addition to providing health assessment, diagnosis, and counseling, your online doctor can also write prescriptions and issue medical certificates.
While there are concerns among medical professionals on the efficacy of virtual health consultations in diagnosing underlying illnesses, the number of online consultations between primary care physicians and call their patients is seen to grow exponentially by 2020.
The upsurge of mobile apps in the health industry is definitely changing the healthcare landscape. In Canada, more than a dozen mobile apps facilitating virtual consultations between physicians and patients with minor health concerns (e,g. urinary tract infections) have been launched. Smartphone apps that allow a patient to have an online doctor consultation with a board-certified physician are also on the rise in Singapore.
As telemedicine becomes more specialized, an ever-increasing number of medical professionals, hospitals, and insurance companies partner with telehealthcompanies providing virtual health services.
More patients, too, are embracing on-demand virtual medical services and would often prefer consulting a doctor online over in-person consultations. Findings of a study conducted in Sweden revealed that major reasons for choosing virtual consultations among patients include convenience, reduced costs, anonymity, and inability to secure an appointment with their primary care physicians due to scheduling conflicts.
When should you schedule a virtual appointment with your doctor?
By having consultations with a certified physician over the internet, you are provided access to the urgent care that you need when you most need it, notwithstanding your location. You can receive 24/7 health advice without ever leaving your home, your office, or even when you are traveling. It doesn’t matter if you (or your doctor) are keeping a really packed schedule.
Consequently, you can save on gas, transportation costs, and time because you need not go to the emergency room or your doctor’s clinic if your ailment is manageable at home. Medical bills will also be greatly reduced even if you don’t have insurance coverage because online doctor consultations are relatively cheaper than a regular visit.
However, reasons for choosing an online doctor consultation over a traditional in-person health checkup like convenience and cost-effectiveness are not an excuse for disregarding comprehensive health care. You need to distinguish between threatening and non-life threatening conditions.
You should schedule for an online doctor consultation when
• You have health questions to ask your doctor. If you are losing sleep over a health concern, it is best to seek online health advice from a qualified medical professional for your peace of mind.
• You want to show your doctor an insect bite, a small cut, or a rash and would want to know if it’s not serious. A bee sting, abrasion, or a skin irritation doesn’t necessarily require a visit to the ER. Your online doctor will assess if it can be managed at home.
• You believe you have an ear, sinus, or eye infection. Simple infections are managed with antibiotics and you can obtain a prescription from your online physician.
• You have persistent sore throat, cough, stomach upset and you need medication to alleviate the symptoms. Sore throat, cough, and gastric irritations are ailments that are easily managed without serious intervention. During you online consultation, your doctor can provide health teachings on how to ease your discomfort.
• You have a sprain and you want to know if there’s a need to go to an urgent care clinic and what you can do to promote healing. Don’t spend money on exorbitant medical and x-ray fees just yet. Consult an online physician first so you’ll know if you really need an emergency room visit.
• You just need to secure a prescription. One of the most annoying things a patient has to endure is wait in a doctor’s clinic for a couple of hours to get a prescription. Your online doctor can prescribe medication at a fraction of the cost of a conventional clinic visit.
• You are seeking a second opinion. If you need to confirm a diagnosis made by your primary care doctor, you can always consult with a board-certified physician using your laptop or your phone.
• Discussing sensitive topics over regular doctor visit makes you uncomfortable. If you are delaying consultations and health checks because you have a hard time talking about your health problem with your regular doctor, consider seeking an online consultation. You can opt for an anonymous consultation with a specialist.
For more pressing health concerns like coughing up or vomiting blood, high fever, sudden sensory and mobility impairments, chest pain, ingestion of toxic substances, breathing difficulties, profuse bleeding, loss of consciousness, and head and neck injuries, it is prudent to seek emergency care immediately.
Author: Ala’a Alkhatib