How to navigate a virtual doctor visit

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By Andy Johnson, health enews contributor, A news service from Advocate Aurora Health

Persistent cough, sinus congestion, sore throat. You know the drill: A trip to the doctor’s office.

Nowadays, there’s another way to get checked out, too. For many minor ill­nesses and injuries, virtual visits offer access to a health care professional who can assess your symptoms and provide a diagnosis in the comfort of your own home.

“With the increasing use of virtual vis­its, medical care is just a click away,’” says Dr. Betsy Winga, an OB-GYN based in Two Rivers, WI and vice president for medical informatics at Aurora Health Care. “This convenient access means you save time and decrease exposure to other ill individuals.”

Examples of conditions treated within virtual visits known as Quick Care in­clude mild abdominal discomfort, acid reflux, back pain, bronchitis, colds, con­stipation, COVID-19 with mild symp­toms, diarrhea, fever, flu, joint pain, mi­nor burns, nausea, painful urination, respiratory and sinus infections, sprains, and vaginal discharge and irritation.

“You want to use common sense,’’ explains Dr. Winga. “Having trouble breathing or a badly broken bone re­quire immediate attention.’’

She says in the primary care world, pairing virtual visits with in-person vis­its, are helpful with chronic disease man­agement. Common disorders such as diabetes and hypertension can be ef­fectively managed without you having to step foot in the clinic for every visit.

“Most patients with hypertension use their blood pressure cuffs at home and monitor regularly,’’ adds Dr. Winga. “Not every visit can be virtual, but a good portion can be done virtually.”

Behavioral health is another area that is well-suited to virtual delivery includ­ing medication management and thera­py. Clinicians are able to use virtual care to diagnose and treat many behavior­al health issues such as depression, at­tention deficit hyperactivity and obses­sive-compulsive disorder.

Like preparing for an in-person visit with the doctor, you want to plan ahead for a virtual visit. In Advocate Aurora’s case, Dr. Winga suggests ensuring you are able to access and navigate the Live­Well app. Check-in can be done several days in advance making the day of the visit easier. She says limiting distractions is important as is consideration for pri­vacy. Also remember to dress appropri­ately and have good lighting.

“Arriving early is a good idea to al­low for unexpected hassles,’’ she says. “Medical offices usually run a little be­hind schedule, so don’t be surprised if you need to wait in the virtual waiting room for a bit.”

Virtual visits aren’t appropriate for all health care needs, but they’re proving their worth, not only with Quick Care but also with chronic disease manage­ment.

“It’s all about communication,” ex­plains Dr. Winga. “Staying focused on the task at hand and being a good com­municator can make a good visit great and now you can do that from the com­fort of your own home.”

For more health and wellness news, visit www.ahchealthenews.com.

Andy Johnson, health enews con­tributor, is a public affairs coordi­nator with Advocate Aurora Health. He’s been with Advocate Aurora since 2000 serving in various internal and external communication roles. He previously worked as a reporter and editor for the Journal Times and Bur­lington Standard Press. He enjoys kayaking, biking, and camping but most of all, spending time with his family.

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