How to navigate a virtual doctor visit

Examples of conditions treated within virtual visits known as Quick Care include mild abdominal discomfort, acid reflux, back pain, bronchitis, colds, constipation, COVID-19 with mild symptoms, diarrhea, fever, flu, joint pain, minor burns, nausea, painful urination, respiratory and sinus infections, sprains, and vaginal discharge and irritation.

“You want to use common sense,’’ explains Dr. Winga. “Having trouble breathing or a badly broken bone require immediate attention.’’

Persistent cough, sinus congestion, sore throat. You know the drill: A trip to the doctor’s office.

Nowadays, there’s another way to get checked out, too. For many minor illnesses and injuries, virtual visits offer access to a health care professional who can assess your symptoms and provide a diagnosis in the comfort of your own home.

“With the increasing use of virtual visits, medical care is just a click away,’” says Dr. Betsy Winga, an OB-GYN based in Two Rivers, WI and vice president for medical informatics at Aurora Health Care. “This convenient access means you save time and decrease exposure to other ill individuals.”

She says in the primary care world, pairing virtual visits with in-person visits, are helpful with chronic disease management. Common disorders such as diabetes and hypertension can be effectively managed without you having to step foot in the clinic for every visit.

“Most patients with hypertension use their blood pressure cuffs at home and monitor regularly,’’ adds Dr. Winga. “Not every visit can be virtual, but a good portion can be done virtually.”

Behavioral health is another area that is well-suited to virtual delivery including medication management and therapy. Clinicians are able to use virtual care to diagnose and treat many behavioral health issues such as depression, attention deficit hyperactivity and obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Like preparing for an in-person visit with the doctor, you want to plan ahead for a virtual visit. In Advocate Aurora’s case, Dr. Winga suggests ensuring you are able to access and navigate the LiveWell app. Check-in can be done several days in advance making the day of the visit easier. She says limiting distractions is important as is consideration for privacy. Also remember to dress appropriately and have good lighting.

“Arriving early is a good idea to allow for unexpected hassles,’’ she says. “Medical offices usually run a little behind schedule, so don’t be surprised if you need to wait in the virtual waiting room for a bit.”

Virtual visits aren’t appropriate for all health care needs, but they’re proving their worth, not only with Quick Care but also with chronic disease management.

“It’s all about communication,” explains Dr. Winga. “Staying focused on the task at hand and being a good communicator can make a good visit great and now you can do that from the comfort of your own home.”

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