How Virtual Doctor Diagnosis Works for Things Like the Flu

March 14, 2021

The flu season hits the world hard every year no matter where you live, but virtual medicine has made diagnosis and treatment of the flu easier for everyone around. There are many benefits of using a virtual doctor to diagnose your condition if you’re displaying symptoms that might be related to the flu. 

Virtual doctors diagnose the flu through an online appointment. The flu can’t be cured, but virtual doctors can prescribe medications that ease the symptoms of the flu and help reduce the condition more quickly. The flu is diagnosed through an interview with the patient. 

For upper respiratory sicknesses like flu and the common cold, making a doctor’s appointment can be almost as much hassle as battling the illness itself. Virtual medicine allows you to receive some treatment without forcing you into a public place where you might infect someone else. 

Why Use a Virtual Doctor for the Flu?

Virtual medicine can be useful for treating several mild illnesses at home without the need for an in-person appointment, and it can also be useful for managing chronic conditions where the patient already has a full patient history with a clinic. But there are some reasons why virtual medicine is especially good for treating the flu. 

Virtual Medicine Prevents Flu Spread

One of the worst things about the flu is how contagious it is. Just the trip out into public to get a diagnose at a brick-and-mortar doctor’s office can expose you to other people who may contract the flu from you. This, in turn, could expose a high-risk individual who might be seriously impacted or even die. While the flu is mild for most people, it still kills thousands of people a year. 

Getting a virtual diagnosis for flu allows you to keep the flu contained in your home and prevents you from exposing both other patients and medical staff to your disease. In many ways, it’s the most ethical way to seek treatment for relatively mild but infectious disease. 

Virtual Doctors Can Prescribe Flu Medications

Virtual doctors may not be able to prescribe narcotics or other controlled substances, but they can prescribe the types of medication used to treat flu, such as Tamiflu. A virtual doctor’s appointment can get you the same medicine prescription from home that you would already be getting from a doctor at a clinic. 

Suspected flu patients are a good match for telemedicine since they can be easily prescribed medications through a virtual appointment, and they need to minimize contact with others as much as humanly possible. 

Flu Is Easily Managed in Most Groups at Home

Unlike other medical conditions, which might require careful observation and aftercare, the flu can be treated at home just by staying away from other people, staying rested, staying hydrated, and managing any secondary symptoms such as body aches, coughing, sneezing, and fatigue. 

Most flu medications are designed to shorten the course of the flu illness, while over-the-counter medications are used to ease symptoms. Combined, the two types of medication can help a patient get over the flu quickly and with less discomfort than if they were unmedicated. 

Many group homes will have rapid influenza testing available to get a positive or negative results. There are also companies that provide facility coverage with advanced nurse practitioners that can perform these tests in the group home and assisted living setting. One company that coverages nursing homes in Connecticut is InHouse Care LLC. They usually send an APRN into the facility regularly and provide telehealth visits to the patients when they are not in the facility providing coverage. 

There are other articles that discuss telehealth visits in nursing homes that may also be of interest such as

How Does a Virtual Doctor Diagnose the Flu?

A virtual doctor diagnoses the flu through an online appointment. A virtual appointment can be made over the Internet with an online video app. Many medical offices are also adding software applications specifically for telemedicine appointments. 

These virtual appointments help to take some of the workload off the main medical office when it comes to appointments such as prescription refills and minor illnesses. If these minor appointments are handled from home, this can leave in-person appointments for more seriously ill patients. 

Virtual doctors usually diagnose flu based on the following symptoms: 

  • Upper respiratory symptoms (coughing, sneezing, runny nose)
  • Fever
  • Body aches and fatigue
  • Known exposure to other flu patients
  • Length of illness

Since the symptoms of the flu and common cold are similar, flu is usually suspected if respiratory effects have persisted for more than a few days. Flu may also be suspected as a diagnosis if there are more severe symptoms such as weakness or difficulty breathing. 

In many cases, a virtual doctor may not prescribe antiviral medications unless the flu symptoms were detected within 1-2 days of exposure to another flu case. In many cases, over-the-counter medications to manage flu symptoms and bedrest will alleviate most flu symptoms. However, it’s a good idea to consult with a virtual doctor to ensure that they don’t recommend more intensive treatment. 

During the Covid 19 pandemic, many labs now offer at-home test kits that will test for Covid-19 and Influenza at the same time. Some offices, such as, can perform dual testing along with telehealth visits in Connecticut. 

How Long Are Virtual Doctor Appointments for the Flu?

A virtual doctor appointment to get medical treatment for the flu is usually around the same amount of time it would take you to visit with a regular doctor minus the wait time in a waiting room or examination room. 

Rather than having to wait for the doctor to show up, virtual doctor appointments connect you directly with the doctor in two ways: 

  • Appointment: In virtual medicine, if you set an appointment for a certain time, that’s the time that your virtual appointment will start. Virtual appointments aren’t typically constrained by the same customer service lag that you see in brick-and-mortar clinics. 
  • Live chat: Some virtual medicine centers will take “walk-ins” by putting you in contact with a live medical provider virtually. 

There are sometimes waiting periods associated with getting attended by a virtual doctor if you didn’t have a pre-set appointment, but you can still usually get in touch with someone quicker than you would if you had to go to a clinic. 

On average, virtual doctor appointments last between ten and fifteen minutes. With an illness like the flu, the doctor may take some additional time to verify a patient’s medical history. This is undertaken to make sure that the patient doesn’t need additional in-person treatment due to their risk category for flu complications. 

Does Virtual Medicine Require Video?

Most virtual doctor appointments require a combination of audio and visual input. This is so the doctor can both listen to the patient describe their symptoms and also visually assess the condition of the patient on the webcam for themselves. 

While just looking at a patient may not give a doctor as much information as getting them in an office to physically examine them, a doctor can often tell whether a respiratory illness is serious enough to warrant in-person care from a visual inspection. 

Do Virtual Doctors Take Insurance for Flu Visits?

Virtual doctors take medical insurance for doctor visits just like an in-person medical clinic. The main difference between the two when it comes to insurance coverage is that telemedicine rates are typically a bit more than half of what it would cost you to see a doctor at a medical office. (Source: KHN)

Since the terms of each health insurance contract are different, it’s up to the patient to check the terms of their insurance agreement to see the specific cost of a virtual appointment versus what they would pay in deductibles for an office visit. 

Each telemedicine hub also has different stipulations for the types of medical insurance they’ll take, so it’s a good idea to check into your insurance and the insurance requirements of the service you want to use before you move to make an appointment. 

Do Virtual Doctors Record Virtual Appointments? 

One major concern that many potential patients have when it comes to telemedicine is whether or not their phone and video appointments are recorded by virtual doctors. 

The answer is no—video appointments are treated the same as an in-person medical examination, and the same Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) conditions concerning doctor-patient confidentiality apply to virtual appointments just like they do medical clinics. No virtual medical professional will record your video appointment for patient records or otherwise. 

Can I Use Zoom or Skype for a Virtual Doctor’s Appointment?

Unfortunately, most doctors won’t allow you to use Skype or other open platform video software for virtual appointments. That’s because these video applications do not meet the HIPAA standard for privacy and security when it comes to the transfer of medical records and information.

During the Covid-19 pandemic, due to executive orders, medical providers are allowed to utilize zoom, facetime, Google Duo, and other platforms that were traditionally not allowed.  

Can I Record My Doctor’s Appointment? 

Some patients might consider recording their virtual doctor appointment even if it isn’t possible in the virtual medicine app for the doctor to record them, but they should think twice. 

It is not legal in many areas to record a doctor’s appointment without the doctor’s knowledge, and in some cases, patients can be prosecuted for recording a doctor’s appointment secretly without the doctor’s consent. (Source: Very Well Health)

What Will A Virtual Doctor Prescribe for the Flu?

A virtual doctor will prescribe pretty much the same treatments you would receive from an in-person doctor visit. This is one of the reasons that virtual medicine is so popular for the flu. Treatment for flu doesn’t require narcotics or any heavy prescriptions that you wouldn’t be able to receive through a telemedicine appointment. 

Here are some of the treatments you’re likely to be prescribed if you get diagnosed with flu in a virtual doctor’s appointment (Source: Mayo Clinic): 

  • Bed rest: All-over body aches and chronic fatigue are two major symptoms of the flu, and the associated coughing can also keep patients up all night while they’re trying to sleep. Most virtual doctors will recommend several days of complete bed rest to accelerate flu recovery. 
  • Fluids: Flu can cause dehydration in many patients, and this, in turn, can lead to flu patients feeling worse than they already do. Dehydration can lead to increased negative flu symptoms such as muscle aches, headaches, and nausea. One of the first pieces of advice a flu patient will hear from any doctor—virtual or not—is to get plenty of fluids and rest. 
  • Antiviral drugs: There are many types of antiviral drugs that are used to treat the flu in serious cases or cases with patients that have a higher risk of flu complications. These drugs include oselatimivir, zanamivir, permivir, and baloxavir. 
  • Isolation: The biggest risk of contracting the flu is passing it on to others, so if you’re in a household with additional members, your doctor will likely advise you to stay away from them and avoid using communal areas or dishes until recovered. (Source: ABC News) Bedding or bathrooms that come into contact with a flu patient should also be sterilized. 
  • Over-the-counter medications: Many of the symptoms of flu, such as respiratory illness and pain, can be alleviated with over-the-counter medications such as ibuprofen and salves like Vaporub. Cough drops and fever reducers can also be easily attained without a doctor’s prescription. 
  • Steam treatment: If a flu patient is having difficulty with congestion, a doctor may recommend that they invest in a humidifier or sit for a few sessions in a steamed-up shower. Hot steam can help relax and clear respiratory passages. This, in turn, makes it easier for flu patients to breathe through irritated, inflamed airways. 

Diagnosing the flu for most healthy people isn’t a complicated process, and the steps for recovering from the flu are similar to the same ones you’d take if you were struck down with a common cold. The main responsibility of the doctor when diagnosing a flu patient is to assess how serious the flu symptoms are and whether the patient is at risk for complications.  

When the Flu Requires In-Person Treatment

Most cases of flu can be easily diagnosed and treated through a virtual doctor appointment since the majority of the medicine used to treat it is over-the-counter, but there are some cases where a flu patient might be encouraged by a virtual doctor to follow-up their virtual appointment with an in-person appointment. 

Here are some conditions where a virtual doctor may encourage the patient to seek in-person treatment: 

  • The patient is in a high-risk category for flu complications. This includes people such as infants, pregnant women, and the elderly. 
  • The patient is showing symptoms that point to a possible diagnosis other than the common flu, which may be more severe. If the doctor hears a symptom that may point to more serious problems, they’ll likely refer the patient for a physical examination to confirm the flu diagnosis with a swab test. 

Even though the majority of people recover from the flu with no problems each year, it is still a dangerous illness. For this reason, virtual doctors may spend additional time in an appointment exploring various symptoms to make sure that the patient isn’t at risk for complications. 

Virtual doctors may also prescribe a follow-up appointment so they can assess whether the patient has improved or not. Based on the results of a follow-up, the virtual doctor may then recommend in-person treatment so that the patient can get a physical exam for their safety. Since the flu can cause serious complications, it’s better to be safe than sorry when it comes to following up on persistent symptoms.

Advantages of Using a Virtual Diagnosis for the Flu

Getting a virtual diagnosis for suspected flu comes with many advantages that turn into hassles when you have to deal with a medical office. Here are some of the benefits you can look forward to by setting up a virtual appointment: 

  • Convenience: Virtual medical provider appointments eliminate the commute to and from the doctor’s office, and a virtual appointment can usually be made around a person’s schedule to the point that they can avoid missing work. Not having to sit around in a doctor’s office waiting to be seen also cuts out a significant amount of time from a medical appointment. 
  • Price: The price of a virtual doctor is much lower than a traditional in-person medical visit in many cases. The deductibles for medical insurance concerning televisits tend to be less than an office visit to encourage patients to use telemedicine services when possible. 
  • Effectiveness: A virtual provider can prescribe any of the treatments a person could need for the flu unless they are so ill that they require hospitalization. Virtual doctors are also held to the same medical standards of care as a traditional doctor, so you won’t be getting a lower tier of treatment than if you’d gone to a medical office. 
  • Safety: If you think you have the flu, getting a virtual diagnosis isn’t just safer for you, it’s safer for everyone around you. If you go out into public with a highly contagious illness, you are risking infecting the waiting room, the doctor, and the attending staff. This, in turn, can cause them to infect others. Telemedicine works better with the flu for everyone involved. 

The advantages of using a virtual diagnosis to treat the flu don’t just positively affect the patient. They affect everyone the patient encounters during their recovery. If the option is available, telemedicine can make the process of treating flu much easier and safer. 

Virtual Diagnosis Is a Good Match for the Flu

If you think you might have the flu and you’ve been considering virtual medicine, it’s a great opportunity to test this type of medical service and see for yourself how smooth the process can be. You’ll be doing your part in reducing contagion while also receiving convenient treatment for your illness. 

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