I’M SICK, AND IT’S AFTER HOURS
I knew something was wrong on Monday; my nose was stuffy, my energy was low, and I just felt “off”. But I did what those of the male persuasion do when confronted by the possibility of illness: nothing. By Wednesday, I finally acknowledged I was sick. “It’s a cold,” I told myself. “No big deal.” I lay on the couch, drank lots of fluids, and pretty much felt like crap. Everything changed Friday night, around 5:30 pm. I looked in a mirror, only instead of my reflection, Rocky Balboa was looking back at me. My right eye was swelling shut, I had a large red abrasion in the sinus pocket above my cheek, and my nose was bright red and swollen.
EXPLORING MY TREATMENT OPTIONS
I called my internist’s office, got the standard, “If this is an emergency please hang up and dial 911. If you want to leave a message…” I hung up. I knew the drill. “I don’t make diagnoses over the phone. Come see me Monday. If you think it can’t wait until then go to urgent care.” Should I go to urgent care? An emergency room? None of my available choices sounded at all appealing, and then I remembered that I was supposed to write an article about a new program that was going to be available come October 1st: Telemedicine. Anthem calls their version LiveHealth Online. The idea is you use your laptop, or phone or any computer device with video capabilities to talk directly with a real live doctor. They can see and hear you; you can see and hear them. I had already signed up in anticipation of researching the article. Now, I was going to try it for real.
USING TELEMEDICINE (LIVEHEALTH ONLINE)
I went to the website, signed in, and was immediately presented with several available doctors. A few were GP’s, one was a pediatrician, and two were ER docs. Each had a photograph, with their qualifications listed below the image, and when you clicked on their picture, you got a more detailed professional history. I figured the trauma guys wouldn’t be much interested if there wasn’t the possibility of imminent death, or at least a little aortal blood. The pediatrician was out unless I counted my age in dog years. I looked at the info under the GPs, picked the first doctor, a woman named Dr. Lim.
The next screen was a payment screen. It cost me fifty bucks. The PWGA cut a deal so Participants only pay $20, but that doesn’t start until October 1st. At this point, fifty bucks sounded like a lot less than a trip to urgent care, or even to my doctor’s office.
The next page asked for my location, listed nearby pharmacies, and asked if I had a preference. I selected a CVS pharmacy on the theory they would be well stocked and have a wide selection. I had the presence of mind to write down their phone number in case the doctor I was going to speak to would need it. I didn’t have to bother; as I would find out, he already had that information.
After that, I was presented with a brief medical history form. I filled it out. (Incidentally, you can elect to save your responses, so if you ever use LiveHealth Online in the future, your history is already available.) The medical history page gave way to a short video explaining how the process worked. They wanted to let me know that the doctors were all experienced with telemedicine and since I was not, I should think about what I wanted to tell the doctor. They took my phone number so they could text me when the doctor was available.
Their systems had detected that my laptop was capable of 4K video (humble brag), so they downloaded a 4K video chat program for me to install. I did. Once it finished, I got tired of looking at the LiveHealth Online logo. I browsed the web. Maybe five minutes had elapsed from login to this point.
THE DOCTOR IS IN
As I was looking at the latest political shenanigans on whatever dubious news source I wasn’t really paying attention to anyway, my phone buzzed. The text message said that my doctor was with a patient, but if I was willing to see someone else, they had a doctor available. Did I want to do this? I clicked OK on my phone, went back to my laptop and their website. A picture of the new doctor and his bio were waiting for me. Was this doctor okay? I clicked yes. I got the video about how telemedicine works again. Sigh. I went back to browsing news stories. Five minutes later my phone buzzed. It was a text telling me that, “The doctor was reviewing my medical history and would be with me shortly.”
A few minutes later, I was texted: the doctor was ready. I went back to the LiveHealth Online tab on my browser. Dr. Alvaro appeared. I could see and hear him clearly. He could see and hear me clearly. I told him what was going on. He asked me some questions, inquired about any allergies I might have, and then prescribed Amoxicillin. I’m a writer, so I had already researched treatment. “Why not Augmentin?” I asked. He told me. We chatted a little more. “What would have happened if I waited? Would it have cleared up on its own?” Apparently not. And if I had waited until Monday to get started on antibiotics, I would have been in significantly greater discomfort. I thanked him, offered up the CVS phone number. He didn’t need it. It was already in the system. He told me he had placed the prescription order. We said our goodbyes and logged off.
FILLING MY PRESCRIPTION
Everything had gone well so far, but I was a little worried that if there were a screw-up at the pharmacy I was going to have to go back on line. It turns out there is an 800 number (800-982-7956) to call if there is a problem with a prescription. I didn’t need to worry. CVS had the order. It wasn’t filled yet. 15 minutes they said. I went to a Starbucks across the street to wait and was just about to order a Grande Americano when my phone buzzed. I had a text from CVS; my prescription was ready. Clearly, LiveHealth Online had communicated all my relevant data.
SUMMING UP THE EXPERIENCE
The bottom line here is pretty sensational. It took about thirty minutes between the time I logged in to LiveHealth Online, and the time I had my prescription in my hands. I paid fifty dollars to talk with a doctor (significantly less than the cost of an office visit), and another nine bucks for the Amoxicillin. I don’t think you could ask for more. If I had gone to urgent care or an emergency room, I would have waited hours and had a much larger bill. If I waited until Monday to see my internist, I would have endured additional pain and suffering, and a much longer treatment time before I was fully recovered.
Like most people, I have a lot of concerns about technology in the 21st Century, but as far as I am concerned, LiveHealth Online represents the best of the Internet. If you find yourself in need of medical attention or advice, LiveHealth Online is available 24/7/365. I hope you never need it, but if you do, it sure is nice to live in this era when services like LiveHealth Online are available, and not a decade earlier.