Barely into his second week at his new school, in our new town, my first-grader came home complaining of feeling ill. He didn’t seem warm when he got off the bus, so I took it in stride, hoping he was just being whiny. But by dinnertime, I noticed his cheeks were looking flushed and he had zero appetite. And shortly afterward, he said his throat was sore. When I looked, it was raw and inflamed. And a little bit after that, he started throwing up.
Every. Ten. Minutes.
Yep, the poor guy was definitely sick, and I was in a quandary. We had just moved, and I hadn’t set the kids up with a pediatrician yet; besides, it was after hours anyway. I knew that there was an urgent care clinic and an emergency room nearby, but the thought of transporting my miserable, barfing child – and then waiting for an indefinite period of time, hoping he didn’t spew all over their floor – sounded unappealing AF.
Usually I take a “wait it out” approach when my kids are sick, but this was an exception. He needed medical attention, and soon. In desperation, I Googled “online doctor,” and was amazed to find that such a thing actually existed: it’s called telemedicine, and a lot of insurance policies cover it these days. Holy shit. Where had this been all my introverted, doctor’s-office-averse life?
I downloaded an app on my smartphone, entered a little bit of information (insurance details, patient info, etc.), and took a couple of photos of my son’s horribly painful-looking throat. Then I chose my doctor from a list, and waited – just like in a regular waiting room, only I was a) in my living room, b) wearing holey yoga pants, and c) able to keep my sick kid comfortable on the couch. It kept me informed of how many patients were ahead of us. And then, less than fifteen minutes later – in real time, right there on my screen – the doctor appeared.
It was just like a video call or Face Time. She introduced herself and asked me to explain the problem. I did, adding that I had sent her the photos I took of my son’s throat (the app had given me the option to send the doctor any photos or files prior to the visit). She looked over them, asked me questions about his symptoms, had me take his temperature. I even turned the phone toward his throat so she could get a live view.
The doctor diagnosed him with a “textbook case” of strep throat (which was surprising – I had no idea that it makes some kids throw up). She even went as far as to show me some photos for comparison. Then she wrote a prescription for antibiotics, sent it to my local pharmacy, and I was able to pick it up within an hour. After the first dose, my son was able to get some much-needed rest. Bravo, technology: bra-VO.
Since then, I’ve “taken” my kids to the online doctor far more often than I ever took them to the pediatrician in person. It’s just infinitely more convenient for me: the wait times are usually short, and I can carry my phone around the house with me doing stuff while I wait. The visits are shorter, too, since they don’t track things like height and weight and blood pressure.
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.
My favorite part is that I don’t have to dress my sick kids and load them into the car. We don’t have to sit in a waiting room for a bazillion years, marinating in other people’s coughs.
Hell, as long as the exam is from the waist up, we don’t even really need to put on pants.