After an amazingly long and luck-filled streak with germs, the Littles in my house got hit hard this last week, with 3/4 of them coming down with some something or other (and of course all different) in a 24-hour time span.
While it seemed that for sure two of them were just fighting off bugs, the third really needed to be seen by a medical professional and not just my friends and I guessing based on a picture I posted on Facebook (tell me you do this, too, just as much as you search WebMD for symptoms?). Of course we did not realize this until late Sunday morning and then what do you do?
In my town we are fortunate to have convenient care offices that can see kiddos on those off hours from other doctor’s offices, but like so many of my friends and fellow mamas, we are not always quick to take our children to the doctor for a number of reasons.
One is cost. In no way, shape, or form am I saying that my children aren’t worth every penny we spend on their health and care, but it would be dishonest to say that those $100+ office visits to hear that “it’s just a virus” don’t sting. The effort involved in getting a sick child to the doctor, (and in my case any variable number of his/her siblings who are stuck along for the ride), is a lot, so please don’t judge when I say that I want to be sure my kids actually need to see the doctor before I take them to the doctor.
This leads me to my second reason: exposure. Bless the hearts and hands of every nurse and aid and doctor out there – I don’t know how you do it. And by it, I mean stay healthy in your place of work. Because doctors’ office are literally crawling with sick kiddos, they are not my preferred place to take my Littles who are a) already immuno-compromised or b) perfectly healthy, because I know there is always a chance they could pick up something else. Truth: we don’t go much of anywhere in winter for this same reason, so please don’t think I am badmouthing the cleanliness of my doc’s office. I know they work super hard to keep it clean for all, but the struggle is real for many of us when considering to go or not to go for a “what do I do about this rash/cough/what-have-you” visit.
All of this combines to form my third point in that so often when I do make the decision to go in with a kid or four in tow, I am wrong in being there, resulting in a waste of money and time (both mine and our doctor’s). Or, conversely, when I hold out, and then a week or two later finally take the child in question in to be seen, they have some awful, raging infection that they showed zero signs of and I feel like a terrible, awful mom (and again, look like a bit of an idiot). I would ask “why is this so hard?” but pretty much no part of parenting beyond thinking my kids are the cutest things ever is easy, so of course knowing when to jump and when to wait it out is tricky.
Thankfully, this weekend, our family may have found its answer for those off-hours/not sure what to do moments: virtual doctor’s visits. When the one child who really, really needed to have a thing on a limb looked at, in the middle of a cold Sunday in Nebraska, (while I also needed to be out of the house and the baby needed a nap), my husband utilized, for the first time, an element of our health insurance that allows for video conferencing with a real live medical professional from the warmth, comfort, and familiar-germ base of our very own home! And, just as remarkably, for a fraction of the cost!
Now, before you ask if I have given up on our regular doc, I’ll be blunt and say, no. There is great value, to me, in seeing the same doctor throughout the years who is watching my kids grow from one milestone to the next and can know us. And the nurses in our doctor’s office have been incredible over the years taking my calls and helping me navigate the ins and outs of caring for my sick babies. But I also have to say that even though there was also some waiting involved in the televisit, the virtual visit was the perfect answer for our family’s situation this weekend, and I am positive we will be using it again.
How does it work, exactly? Assuming you have Internet access, a device (computer, phone, or tablet), and hopefully health insurance that offers telehealth as a benefit, you simply set up an account, and “make the call.” Our insurance with Blue Cross/Blue Shield offers services through AmWell (you can read more about their process here), so after submitting the enrollment information, my husband and kiddo were ready to meet with the doctor. You can, by the way, choose which kind of physician you wish to meet, or just go with next available. In our case, the two of them had to wait in virtual line for a bit, but they had a counter on the screen telling them how many people were ahead of them (two), and now that we have been through the process once, we know that said kiddo could have been off somewhere else in the house and just been brought to the computer when the doctor was ready to assess.
As for the assessment itself, they were able to view the limb in question, had my husband take temperature in front of them, asked questions, and were then able to call in the necessary Rx to our local pharmacy. I was shocked when I walked in the door after being gone for an hour and a half to find that he had managed to do all of this (while the baby napped the other kids played elsewhere in the house) in such a short time, and future visits will be potentially even faster now that we have the profiles established.
I realize telehealth is not exactly new, but in just one session, it has been a game changer for us. Perhaps these virtual doctors’ visits will keep us from having as many of the knee-jerk (taking them in for viruses) and just-a-jerk (waited too long) appointments with our primary doctor. Sounds like a win/win to me!