Viral Bouts Had Me Longing for a Virtual Doctor

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by Athena Merritt |

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I had my flu shot at the beginning instead of the tail end of flu season this year. Unfortunately, there’s no vaccine for the seasonal viruses currently making the rounds. I fought off the first bug with vitamin C, tea, honey, and over-the-counter cold medicine.

Thoughts of virtual medicine from my sickbed

Then, one week later, a second wave arrived, hellbent, like the character Daenerys of House Targaryen from HBO’s “Game of Thrones,” on me “bending the knee” and submitting to its reign. I fought valiantly for two weeks before being reduced to kneeling over the porcelain throne, doing my best imitation of a cat with a hairball. Crawling back into bed with the battle lost, I knew that I would have to summon the strength to go to the doctor. I longed for the convenience of a virtual doctor visit.

From the comfort of home

I first used virtual healthcare in 2016 through a cardiologist at the Cleveland Clinic who was treating my postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome. I loved it. Instead of traveling to Cleveland every three months for follow-up visits, I simply signed onto my iPad and had a video chat with my doctor. Being treated virtually meant more work on my end: I had to keep a daily diary of my heart rate and symptoms during exercise. I sent the information to my physician before our scheduled video chat. The detailed logs of my days helped my physician treat me and assisted me in the management of my health by identifying patterns of behavior and other factors that affected my well-being. 

Wave of the future?

The Cleveland Clinic is expanding its digital health footprint through a new partnership with American Well, announced in October. More than 96 percent of health systems surveyed last year plan to expand virtual care services in the next year. Healthcare providers aren’t the only ones jumping into telemedicine. In September, Amazon announced plans to launch Amazon Care, a virtual primary care clinic. Last month, CVS Health’s MinuteClinic announced the expansion of its telehealth service into three more states. The service, available in 40 states, offers virtual visits to treat minor illnesses, injuries, and skin conditions. 

Removing virtual hurdles

My cardiologist retired the following year, taking the convenience of my virtual visits with him. None of my current physicians offers the service, which I hadn’t thought would be possible because of the need for hands-on examinations. But then I read an interesting article about TytoHome, a hand-held device that enables you to use attachments so doctors can listen to your pulse or see your throat or ear remotely. The device is available from Best Buy for $300. I found this to be too pricey. But after dragging myself into the shower, getting dressed, and clearing snow off my car to drive to the doctor, I consider it a bargain. 

Hoping everyone stays warm and healthy this winter.


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