Your child’s eyes have swelled, and her skin is turning red and inflamed. Your instincts tell you it’s just a reaction to something she ate, and a Benadryl will solve the problem, but you’re worried that you could be wrong—what if it’s something more serious?
This scenario and similar ones grip American parents every day. Many take a trip to the urgent care, but others are turning to a new model—virtual medical care.
Virtual Medical Care
KUOW.org reports that virtual care is nothing new. Rural health care providers often use tools like Skype to connect to specialists in urban areas. Now, thanks to the efforts of several medical organizations, the virtual care model is coming directly to patients nationwide. Patients who are suffering from ailments ranging from sprains to nausea to ear aches and fevers are using their tablets and laptops to contact doctors for urgent medical advice using video chat.
Doctors examine patients by asking the patients to perform the same manipulations that a doctor would in his office. If a doctor suspects that a patient has a sinus infection, they will ask the patient to push firmly on either side of their checks. The doctor will perform the motions first so that the patient knows directly where to touch themselves. Based on the patient’s response, the doctor can diagnose the issue and prescribe medications as necessary.
In some ways, virtual care is similar to calling a nurse hotline, but it is far superior to that model. Virtual doctors can see the patient which is critical for assessing medical ailments like rashes, pink eye, and frost bite. The virtual doctor can also prescribe medications as needed, something nurses cannot do. A nurse hotline can only reassure parents not to worry or send them to the urgent care.
Urgent care centers have been around since the 1980s, and according to the Urgent Care Association of America, there are 9,000 urgent care facilities in the country. These facilities offer patients increased access to healthcare with lower costs than visiting an emergency room. However, as millions of Americans flock to these facilities, the wait times grow.
Virtual Care Vs. Urgent Care
In both the virtual care and the urgent care model, patients are seeing highly qualified healthcare professionals who are licensed to practice medicine in their state. Patients who visit a virtual care center are not exposed to the germs of other patients in the waiting room, and they can seek answers immediately for a variety of medical ailments, according to MeMD, a virtual care provider.
The virtual care option is perfect for busy families, and the model also appeals to seniors or others who have trouble leaving their home. It can be a lifesaver for people who live in medically underserved areas.
Although a range of conditions can be treated by a virtual care provider, there are some issues that require a trip to urgent care. Unfortunately, virtual doctor’s cannot do stitches or perform x-rays, and patients who require services like these should head to urgent care.