This Service May Be The Wave Of The Future – But It Isn’t For Everyone

It’s that time of year – colds, flu, and other viruses are everywhere during the winter months, and our children are particularly susceptible.  They don’t necessarily have the best hygiene practices — like frequent hand washing — and are often in large groups at school or daycare where exposure to illness is high.

During the winter months when illnesses are more prevalent, it may seem like you are constantly at the doctor’s office.  It can be tough to get a same-day appointment for your child, and also difficult to schedule one around work and other responsibilities.

In an era where almost every service imaginable can be provided online, it may come as no surprise that many physicians are now providing online office visits.  This idea may seem like a huge benefit to busy moms, but there are a few things you need to know before booking your online appointment.

There are many benefits for busy parents in having the option of seeing your child’s doctor online.  Obviously, the hassle of a trip to the doctor with a sick child is eliminated.  So are the long waits in a crowded doctor’s office with not only your own child feeling miserable, but everyone else’s children sick around you.

Being able to see a physician from the comfort of your own home reduces the risk of illness being transmitted to others.  We often are not only taking our sick child to the doctor, but many times must take along younger siblings who may pick up a nasty bug in a crowded waiting room, spreading it further among the family. reported:

Ultimately, all of these factors—few clinics, long commutes, limited hours and days of operation—can lead to packed waiting rooms with long wait times. This is more than just an annoyance. The extra stress of being in a full room can negatively affect your health, flooding your body with stress hormones that can hamper your immune system.

Full waiting rooms can also cause healthcare-associated infections. These comprise of infections that you may develop while getting treated for other medical or surgical conditions, including urinary tract infections caused by a catheter and infection of a surgical site.

The greatest benefit of booking an appointment online is perhaps the time it saves for already busy parents.  The appointments can be booked online by viewing a schedule of availability – no more waiting on hold and then taking an appointment time that could not be more inconvenient for your schedule.

Most physicians who provide this service can order prescriptions and lab tests, if needed, just like a traditional in-person office visit.  Some states even allow for a phone-in appointment for minor illnesses and injuries, but some state laws require a video chat in case of any visible symptoms. continued:

At the end of this consultation, your doctor will provide a diagnosis and a personalized treatment plan for your condition. Your doctor may also prescribe any necessary medications (as permitted under law).

Some online doctors can provide more than just phone visits. Some telehealth services include nutrition counseling for diets, weight loss, and eating disorders. Others even have therapists for depression, anxiety, and other mental and emotional health issues. Online doctors can also provide doctor’s notes.

Now before you jump for joy and say, “I’m in!  I’ll never have to wait in a crowded room full of sick kids again!,” there are some important limitations to these online visits.

Parents know their kids best.  If you are certain it is a minor illness and just want some professional advice, or for a common childhood problem like rash, hives, or pinkeye that is easily diagnosed with a quick visual exam, this service may be a great option.

However, when kids get sick, they can rapidly get worse.  Some common symptoms may mimic minor illnesses, but may be something more severe.  An in-person visit guarantees that the physician is able to perform a full exam by taking vital signs, listening to labored breathing, or checking for inflammation to rule out something more severe.

One mom gave some input on her experience to

Granted, online doctor visits are most effective for visually-identifiable illnesses, like pinkeye or a rash or something – there are definitely things that require a closer, in-person examination. But for the times when I’m unsure about something and need a quick medical opinion, or it’s after office hours, or my children are too miserable to move, it’s a relief knowing that I’ve got an option other than waiting it out. For patients in rural areas, or in inclement weather, I’m sure it’s a godsend.

When in doubt, it is always best to see your pediatrician in person.  And because these services are relatively new and not provided by every doctor’s office, chances are you will be speaking with a doctor who is not familiar with your child and their past medical history.

Although the physician will do his best to access medical history during the online registration process, this is a case of technology not always being the best option. It has its pros and cons and only you as a parent can determine the best option for helping your child.

Have you ever taken part in one of these online doctor’s visits for your kids or yourself?  What was your experience like?  Leave us your thoughts in the comments section.

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