Telemedicine & Flu: A Great Way to Stop the Spread
According to Federal Health Officials, this flu season is the worst we’ve had in 15 years. The rate of nationwide visits to Urgent Care centers and ERs is higher than usual. It's important that patients know the benefits of using telemedicine & flu when their symptoms first occur.
So far this year, an atrocious 12,000 hospitalizations were reported, and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) stated that the flu epidemic has blanketed the United States.
With the deaths of 37 children, and 7 deaths reported just in the last week, flu activity is considered high, possibly extreme, in 39 states. It is highly likely, according to officials, that the pediatric death toll will surpass the 148 cases during the flu season of 2014-2015. That was when the same infectious strain that is rampant this flu season last took hold in the U.S. The strain that is most lethal this year is identified as the H3N2, which mainly affects children and individuals age 65 and older, but public health officials are saying that this year’s flu season is a bit different than when the same strain went viral in the past. Daniel Jernigan, head of the CDC’s influenza division, reported that, this year, influenza hit almost every state around the same time and the “flu activity has stayed at the same national level for three weeks in a row.”
The highest outbreak occurred in the weeks following Christmas break as people returned to school and work. Currently, the number of individuals visiting doctor’s offices and emergency rooms is at its highest.
Have you ever considered how helpful it would be if doctors could diagnose you over the phone or using video calls? Not an extremely recent invention, telemedicine has actually been around for quite a while but is just recently gathering speed. Throughout the 21st century, telemedicine has steadily been increasing in popularity to the point where it’s commonly employed in medical practices today. Rather than having to pay the fee for multiple office visits or risk infecting the doctor or other patients, this medical technology proves itself to be exceptionally beneficial.
For patients in rural or isolated communities, telemedicine connects them to local or international doctors and specialists. Healthcare professionals are able to share information with a patient as if they were in the same physical place, decreasing the amount of medical bills for office visits and allowing the doctor to have oversight in drug administration. Overall, telemedicine provides several benefits for both physicians and patients, and in this case, is incredibly helpful in dealing with the flu epidemic.
Having the flu is bad enough, but when you have to sit and wait in a doctor or urgent care office, flu season automatically becomes ten times worse. Chances are, you’re being exposed to even more strains of the flu which can worsen your symptoms. Doesn’t sitting at home in your bed and having a video chat with a physician sound more comfortable? Not only can telemedicine come in handy for an adult with the flu, but if you’re a parent with a sick child, this technology can be quite convenient.
A video chat with a doctor is very similar to any other visit with a physician. Before you set up the video chat, make a list of your symptoms, when they began, and their severity. Be sure to know your current medications and be aware of any breathing difficulty or chest pain; those are both extremely important to convey to the physician. Once you are face-to-face on the screen, the physician can assess your temperature and breathing regularity, ask questions about symptoms, and deduce your general well-being. Based on his or her observations, the doctor can prescribe medication and develop a treatment plan. If the doctor suspects you have the flu, he or she may require a test to confirm and put you on over-the-counter medication to relieve some of your most painful symptoms.
Telemedicine is a tremendous advantage when treating the flu because of how the virus is spread. During recent flu epidemics, many doctors have advised patients with flu-like symptoms to skip their office visits in an attempt to contain and prevent the flu from being spread to even more people. Patients could then be treated via telemedicine. Because of how the flu is spread, doctors don’t want patients with flu-like symptoms coming into their offices, especially if telemedicine is a viable option.
The flu is spread through airborne particles - specifically droplets or spray when a person sneezes, coughs, or talks. Individuals can also contract the virus by coming into contact with a surface or object that has been touched by an infected person and then touching their own nose or mouth. The influenza virus can spread up to 6 feet away to a new "victim", and it take symptoms 1 to 4 days to fully present themselves after contracting the virus. The tricky part is that individuals can spread the flu up to 1 day before their own symptoms appear and 5 to 7 days after symptoms surface.
Health professionals concur that it is crucial to seek treatment early if you suspect you may have the flu. This will prevent you from becoming sicker as well as spreading your sickness to others. Doctors have agreed that telemedicine is the best option for receiving care if you have flu-like symptoms, so don’t wait to make that video call!