If you feel you have the flu, you may be able to save energy and time by seeing a doctor from home. It is not always necessary to begin by going to the clinic or hospital. You can get the medical advice you need to feel better from the comfort of your bed.
This article answers a simple question: can I use telemedicine for the flu? You feel terrible, but probability suggests your condition isn't serious. If used properly, online consultations provide convenience, at no cost to your health.
Visiting a doctor in-person versus consulting one over telemedicine is usually not very different, for neither the patient nor the doctor. After all, a significant amount of diagnoses made by general practitioners result primarily from the consideration of the patient’s history and their account of the symptoms they report during their consultation. An experienced doctor can usually determine the severity of conditions simply by visual and auditory observation.
Furthermore, when someone has a condition that is more severe than a common cold or flu, they usually know. They’ll less likely be satisfied if the doctor just tells them to manage it with over the counter medication. So doctors are also trained to determine the necessity for further examination based on this sort of behavior.
Auscultation – a common smoke screen?
An example of why physical in-person consultations can unnecessary as a first step in the treatment of common acute conditions is auscultation– listening to sounds made by organs (such as your lungs or heart) with a stethoscope. Although a common practice by doctors for suspected upper respiratory tract infections (URTIs), it is only really important for patients with asthma. If a patient doesn’t have asthma, a fever, and their other upper respiratory symptoms (sore throat, congestion, cough, etc.) have been present for less than 2 weeks, their lungs will usually be clear.
Fluid in the lungs is generally a sign of pneumonia, which is the main concern of doctors when they perform an auscultation. Regardless of this, the success rate of diagnosing pneumonia by auscultation is 50%. There are many other symptoms that allow a doctor to suspect pneumonia, such as observing the way a person talks and coughs. So auscultation, unless you are asthmatic, is unnecessary as it can’t prove anything.
Whenever a doctor thinks you may have pneumonia it is necessary to get an X-ray. Most GPs would have to send you to another facility to get an X-ray, as they are unable to do it for you on their premises. Therefore you end up in the same situation whether you speak to a doctor online or in person.
With this in mind, it seems more reasonable to have your preliminary consultation at home, or wherever you are. If the doctor thinks your condition warrants further investigation and care, they can then direct you to other services, as they would have done anyway had you consulted them in person.
Aside from the flu, when should I trust telemedicine?
Most Singaporeans are used to having a doctor perform physical checks on them when they are sick. As a result of that, we feel uneasy with the concept of an online doctor giving us a diagnosis without performing these checks. While physical examinations are important for the diagnosis of certain diseases, common reasons for a GP visit such as the flu, sore throat, cough etc. can be diagnosed accurately without performing physical tests.
Virtual care is not meant to replace primary care. As mentioned above, there are conditions where a patient should visit a GP in person in order to get the appropriate tests done. But it can address a large majority of the conditions that people visit a GP for.
In 2014, Ministry of Health (MOH) conducted a survey and found that 65% of all GP visits are for acute, likely self-limiting (i.e. can recover on its own), conditions. The vast majority of the time, when we visit a doctor, it is because we either want a prescription drug for symptomatic relief, or we want a medical certificate to rest at home. These conditions can be handled much more efficiently over telemedicine.
With that being said, it is important for patients to understand the situations that are suitable for online consultations, and situations where they should visit a doctor in person. Virtual care service providers can help patients to identify these situations by clearly listing the conditions that are suitable for their services (The conditions suitable for RingMD’s Instant Call service can be found here).
The bottom line is that online consultations are always an option you can turn to for convenient medical advice. Furthermore, most common acute conditions can be determined through online consultations.
An experienced licensed doctor is typically quickly able to determine the severity of your condition just from speaking with you: whether that be in person or through a video consultation.
If your condition is serious, or further physical examination is required, doctors on RingMD will tell you what to do to get appropriate care. Consulting a doctor online is a convenient first line of defense that will likely help your acute condition, and if it can’t, it’ll point you in the right direction to deal with it effectively.
You have a lot of things going on in your life, don’t spend time traveling to the clinic or hospital and waiting if you don’t have to.
RingMD is open to answering any questions from patients who want to know more about how telemedicine services work, and we can be contacted easily via our website. Don’t hesitate to contact us.
Speak with a doctor online on RingMD. Why leave home to see a doctor if you don't have to? See a doctor online now. When appropriate, the doctor is able to provide you with a signed Medical Certificate (MC) via email if they believe you need one for work or school reasons.
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