I have chronic illnesses and often get sick. Some of my chronic illnesses are autoimmune diseases. This isn’t anything new – I’ve been like this for as long as I can remember.
In July, the sinus infection that I had been trying to fight off started winning the battle. By the time I realized that I needed to see a doctor – everything was closed. What could I do? The solution to my problem was telemedicine.
I had been fighting this sinus infection for a few weeks, hoping it would go away. This is little more than procrastination, because I almost never am able to fight off a sinus infection without help.
Typically, I get two sinus infections a year. This is an improvement from when I used to work in daycare, and as a teacher, when I would get four or more sinus infections a year. The result is that I’m acutely aware of the signs and symptoms that my body is trying to fight a sinus infection.
There are many reasons why I did not immediately go see a doctor right away. I’ve been in and out of doctor’s offices more this year than in previous years, and didn’t want to sit around in a waiting room, again, for an indeterminate amount of time.
My doctor is at what I call “the clinic for the poor people” and is booked so far ahead that I knew it would be impossible to be seen by that doctor right away. Once, I called for an appointment and was able to get an appointment with a different doctor – who has since left the clinic.
The thing that made me realize that I was having great difficulty fighting off this sinus infection was the fever that developed. It showed up really fast while I was up late and trying to get some writing done.
According to WebMD, a German doctor in the 19th century set the standard for human body temperature at 98.6 F, but more recent studies says the baseline for most people is closer to 98.2 F. Mine is generally around 96-point-something. The thermometer showed a body temperature of around 98.8 F, and kept getting higher after that.
It was around three in the morning, so I decided to get some sleep to see if that helped. When I woke up, the fever was still there, and it felt like my sinuses were on fire. It was a Saturday, and the emergency clinic I was considering going to was closed. Sinus infections can get really serious if left untreated.
I was so sick that I opted-out of playing Dungeons & Dragons with my friends that day. I was overly warm, in pain, and not thinking very clearly.
What to do? The answer was telemedicine, something I had never tried before.
The American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) describes telemedicine as: “telemedicine is the practice of medicine using technology to deliver care at a distance. A physician in one location uses a telecommunications infrastructure to deliver care to a patient at a distant site.”
The AAFP supports expanded use of telemedicine as an appropriate and efficient means of improving health, when conducted within the context of appropriate standards of care.
My health insurance is an individual plan that I got from the Marketplace. In other words, I have “Obamacare”. I am poor, so I get a subsidy to help me pay for my health insurance premiums.
One of the “perks” of the health plan I have is telemedicine. They sent me emails about it, recommending I fill out an online form before I got sick. They sent me flyers about it, which I promptly recycled, because I never imagined I would need telemedicine.
The first thing that needed to be done was to fill out an online form about my health and symptoms. My husband filled it out for me because I wasn’t coherent enough to do it myself. There were several options for the doctor to contact me, and I selected a phone call.
The doctor was a very nice woman, with an Indian accent, who sounded like she was working in a noisy place. She asked about my symptoms, and offered advice about getting some rest and recommendations about what foods to consume and which to avoid while I was sick. Some of her suggestions were foods I am allergic to, because she didn’t have a full list of my allergens. That’s not her fault.
The doctor asked if I was allergic to antibiotics. No, I’m not. Then, she rattled off a list of antibiotics and asked if I knew which one worked best for me. Yes, I did!
The doctor sent a prescription to the pharmacy of my choice, and my husband went to get pick it up. Telemedicine worked really well for me. It was fast, efficient, and the doctor was very attentive. I didn’t have to sit in a waiting room and potentially infect everyone else who was there.
The antibiotic I received was the generic form of the one I selected. It cost $1.83. The cost of speaking with a telemedicine doctor turned out to be $5.00. If I had been able to see a doctor at a clinic that day, the copay would have been $75.00.
I will be using telemedicine again the next time I get a sinus infection. A telemedicine doctor cannot treat everything. There was a list of what it can be used for, and sinus infections are on that list.
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