INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — The flu has infected up to 26 million Americans in the last few months. Many hospitals have put up restrictions, meaning children and visitors are limited and strict regulations are in place if you’re in the building. But with today’s technology and the amount of disease at hospitals, more people are opting to stay home and phone in their doctor’s appointments.
Everyone has a doctor in their pocket these days, and I’m not just talking about a Google search. Virtual doctor visits, like Teladoc or Doctor On Demand, get you in touch with a healthcare professional without ever having to leave the house.
With the flu as bad as it is, some people don’t feel like the risk of getting a different illness is worth the doctor’s visit compared to whatever symptoms they’re already experiencing.
“My motto was then, as bad as the flu has been, I didn’t want to go near a doctor’s office or to an emergency room because I didn’t feel that it was an emergency,” virtual doctor user Janet Webster said. “I just didn’t feel well.”
Doctors with IU Health can meet with patients virtually, so they don’t have to worry about another disease or the hassle of driving to the doctor’s office. These doctors say as the flu ramps up, they’re seeing more and more people reach out virtually.
“You know, when you’re sick and you’re in a time crunch, it’s a real convenient way to access good healthcare and really good advice about what to do,” IU Health physician Andrew Cunningham said.
“A lot easier than driving to the doctor and sitting in a doctor’s office full of sick people that you don’t know what they have,” Webster said.
Answers to a News 8 question about virtual doctors on Facebook got a mixed response. Some said a virtual doctors wouldn’t be as reliable and that a trip to the doctor’s office is a better practice. Others say it depends on how you feel if you should go or call it in.
“I mean, for what I knew I had, I knew that it was just a sinus infection,” Webster said. “But if I had another ache or pain that I wasn’t quite sure about, then I would seek going to the doctor.”
Doctors say the Facebook comments aren’t completely off base. Not being in the same room does limit doctors in what they can do, but it’s not a useless system.
“Well, I think just first knowing that it’s something that’s available as an additional tool — when you’re sick, it’s usually best to be seen physically, but again, if there’s limitations regarding transportation, it certainly has a real important role,” Cunningham said.
If you don’t want to make your way out to the hospital and you want a virtual doctor’s appointment, you can find out how on IU Health’s website.