How Telemedicine Can Help This Flu Season
Treating the Flu with Telemedicine
Flu season rears its head every year, starting in late fall and lasting until the first months of spring. This time can be particularly challenging for healthcare providers as they struggle to meet the needs of their patients. Flu season usually leads to a rise in in-person consultations, especially when today’s vaccine is “less effective” than those in years past, putting added pressure on urgent care centers and doctors’ offices across the country.
But care providers are turning to telemedicine as a way of curbing the flu season rush. Diagnosing and treating patients remotely can help ease the burden placed on urgent care centers and doctors’ offices when lots of patients are trying to find relief from their symptoms. Learn more about how telemedicine is making a difference during flu season.
Why Telemedicine Is Effective When Treating the Flu
While some patients may have more complex healthcare needs, doctors and physicians can use telemedicine to diagnose and treat patients with the flu. When diagnosing a patient, doctors typically look for a cough and fever, the two most common symptoms of the flu.
At the height of flu season, nearly every patient with a cough or fever will likely have the flu. This often means no in-person consultation is necessary. Doctors can quickly assess a patient’s symptoms via a virtual consultation and send them a prescription remotely, saving patients time and money.
With a less effective flu vaccine, more patients are contracting the flu, which can overwhelm local urgent care centers and doctor’s offices. While every case is unique, doctors can quickly treat patients with flu-like symptoms without taking away from the rest of the facility’s resources.
This reduces wait times for those seeking in-person care. It also eliminates travel time for patients looking for fast relief from their symptoms, which can be especially beneficial during the coldest months of the year when driving conditions tend to be less than ideal. Infectious patients can also stay home, reducing their chances of spreading the virus.
Treating Symptoms Quickly
When a patient has the flu, they typically need to be treated within two days of when they first start getting sick. This means time is of the essence for many patients. But meeting with a physician in-person on such short notice isn’t exactly realistic for many patients. They may not have the time or resources to visit a healthcare provider within the next 48 hours after they start exhibiting symptoms.
But with telemedicine, patients can quickly consult with their doctor using telemedicine software and devices for live video capabilities. This gives patients access to antiviral drugs as soon as possible. If the patient waits longer than two days to see a doctor, these drugs may be less effective. Telemedicine can help patients find the care they need when they can’t afford to wait for an in-person appointment.
Patient Communication and Education
Flu season isn’t just about treating patients with flu-like symptoms. It’s also about educating patients on how they can protect themselves from getting infected with the virus in the first place. This includes basic hygiene such as washing our hands more often throughout the day, covering our nose and mouth when we cough or sneeze, not touching our eyes or mouth if we haven’t washed our hands, and disinfecting surfaces that may be contaminated.
Even if a patient doesn’t have the flu, doctors can use virtual consultations to educate patients on how they can prevent infection. They can also use this time to talk about the benefits of getting a flu vaccine and answer any questions the patient might have about vaccine safety and prevention.
When urgent care clinics and doctor’s offices reach capacity during flu season, care providers can use telemedicine to diagnose and treat patients with flu-like symptoms quickly and effectively. While some patients with more complex healthcare needs may need an in-person consultation, most patients can get the care they need with a virtual consultation. Patients need fast access to antiviral drugs when suffering from flu-like symptoms, in these cases, telemedicine may be their best option.
Learn more about the benefits of using telemedicine during flu season and visit InTouch Health today.