With the summer travel season comes fun with friends and family. It also brings with it the risk you’ll be far from home when you wake up not feeling well, wishing for the convenience of home, and access to doctors you know and trust.
As an ER physician, my friends and family know they can reach out to me with their problems, whether simple or complex. Just a few weeks ago a friend did just that: she, her husband, and daughter were on the road, traveling between states, when she became quite sick. Even though she was far from home base, I was able to ask her a series of questions via text message and based on her answers and a photo of her throat, determine that she likely had strep throat and could use an antibiotic.
Within a matter of minutes, I was able to turn her vacation around, calling in a prescription to the pharmacy nearby, and setting her on a road to recovery with the added security that she could continue to communicate with me if needed.
Unfortunately, not everyone is close personal friends with a physician who can make sure they get the prescription or reassurance they need, even when they’re far from home; however, nearly everyone has the technology to be able to make that barrier to access obsolete.
With a cell phone or computer, anyone could access a physician immediately if that service and direct availability were a priority for their home health system. With the increasingly widespread implementation of value-based care, more and more organizations are working to connect patients to physicians via virtual care in an effort to deliver the right care, at the right time, at the right cost.
Recently, I was on vacation myself, and found a magnet with information for “Urgent Medical Advice” sticking to the refrigerator. Intrigued to learn more about who was providing the service for our vacation rental in northern California, I gave them a call – turns out they were a nurse advice line run out of a hospital two states away.
“Medical advice is medical advice wherever you are; now, would you like me to connect you to a nurse?" was the response I got from the woman staffing the line.
While she is right to some extent, there is huge value in having your virtual visit be with a physician who is familiar with the area you’re contacting them from and familiar with you as an individual. This belief is why, at CirrusMD, our platform is staffed by only local system-affiliated doctors dedicated 100 percent to staffing the service – so they aren’t distractedly taking patient calls while doing other clinical work, or at their kid’s baseball practice.
Connectedness and continuity are underrepresented in virtual services currently available to a tech-enabled market hungry for physician access. Local, in-network physicians with access to affect your course of care and to stay in touch add real value so if you do need follow-up care, or a referral to a specialist, they know the resources available to you, and can recommend the right next steps.