The Health Reporter Is In, May 24, 2018

The Health Reporter Is In, May 24, 2018

Q: What should you know before you take part in a virtual health visit?

A: First of all, be aware that not every telehealth service is the same. And not all doctors think virtual visits are such a great idea.

Two of the three larger medical providers in Champaign County, OSF HealthCare and Carle, both offer virtual medical visits in this area through contract services. Christie Clinic considered the idea and rejected it.

Virtual visits are medical exams that take place when you and the medical provider aren't in the same location — either by voice only on the telephone or through such options as Skype or FaceTime.

Dr. BEN JOHNSTON, medical director of convenient care for Christie Clinic, calls telehealth visits virtual urgent care, and the way he sees it, "It really doesn't add a whole lot of value."

One big issue for Johnston is that even with so-called simpler health issues, such as a sore throat or a urinary tract infection, there can be other things going on that could be overlooked in a virtual visit, especially if the doctor you're consulting doesn't have access to your medical records.

Your first choice should be seeing your own doctor in person, with the next choice being an in-person visit with another provider who has access to your records, he said. Working his way down the list of choices, he'd pick a virtual visit with a contract provider that has access to your records second-to-last and make the last choice a virtual visit with someone who lacks access to your records.

When this is a more viable option, Johnston said, is if you live in a rural area without any access to a doctor nearby, or perhaps if weather conditions make driving hazardous, or you're about 100 percent certain you're not at risk for any complications.

"Random physician, no access to your medical records beats not getting care at all," he said.

If you do decide to go ahead with a virtual visit, you can take some steps ahead of time to ensure it will go smoothly.

AMY LEE, VP of primary care in Champaign-Urbana for Carle, said she's used Carle's InstaCare twice — once for herself and once for her daughter.

"One of the things I learned is it's very easy to set it up and easy to do, but you want to set it up first before you need it," she said. "The first time, it does take some time."

She also learned the need for a strong internet connection and that you're in a private and quiet space, so you and your medical provider can hear each other well. If you're going to be talking about something like a urinary tract infection, for example, you won't want to be discussing your symptoms in a public place.

SARA METZGER, telehealth program manager for OSF, advised approaching a virtual visit in the same way you'd approach an in-person visit with your doctor.

And keep in mind, she said, this option isn't intended to replace care from your primary care doctor or treat all kinds of conditions.

It is, however, an option for sick people who don't want to leave home and go sit in an urgent care waiting room, especially during busy times such as flu season, she said.

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