Editor’s Note: This post is not intended as medical advice. Always consult a medical professional or physician before treatment of any kind.
Two years ago, I convinced my husband to go on a road trip over spring break. Not just any road trip, mind you, but a 16 hour road trip with our four young kids, ages 1, 3, 5, and 7. In my head, we were going to be fun and spontaneous parents, hitting the road and going with the flow.
In reality, it was a complete disaster.
The trip ended up to be a total nightmare, as the slight cold my toddler had developed into full-blown double pneumonia, thanks to the weather change, a mysterious virus, high pollen counts, and all that time strapped in her car seat. My daughter ended up in the hospital for several days, and the fact that her medical care had been provided in a different state presented us with a bit of a challenge once we returned home.
She needed a specific medication, but all of the doctor’s offices around us (including urgent care) were closed. There was one 24-hour pharmacy in our rural area, but without a doctor’s order, we found ourselves completely stuck. Panic quickly set in, as my husband and I both had flashbacks of our helpless daughter hooked up to oxygen in the hospital. We needed to get her the medicine, and we needed it now.
Desperate, I remembered an app I had heard about that lets you see a doctor from your phone. It was one of those things that almost seemed too good to be true, but with nothing to lose, I downloaded the app, plugged in my insurance information, and connected to a pediatrician. She listened to our situation, looked over all of the information in our chart, and assessed my daughter via video chat. Within minutes, she sent our prescription over to the pharmacy. Before I even hung up from the video call, my husband was speeding away to pick it up.
I knew I had stumbled onto a total game-changer. After our first incredibly positive experience with telehealth (we use Amwell with American Well), I have continued to use it for our entire family, and honestly, it’s changed my life. I love how convenient it is to use, especially living in a rural area where visiting a doctor’s office is an all-day event.
According to mother of two and pediatrician Sylvia Romm, MD, MPH, who is also a medical director at American Well, an app like Amwell is best for those times when you aren’t sure if your child needs something more than what you are able to provide at home.
“If your child falls and gets a large cut, one of our physicians can tell you if he needs stitches or not,” she explains. “If a tummy bug makes it way around the house, and you’re not sure that your child needs help staying hydrated, our doctors can help see if she is safe to stay home, and maybe even give some medicines that can help her keep water down. When colds or fevers are getting you concerned that your child isn’t getting better as quickly as he normally does, it’s fast and easy to check in with one of our doctors to make sure that everything is OK.”
One of the major advantages of telehealth, Dr. Romm adds, is the peace of mind that 24/7 availability can provide. There are so many times when a child is sick in the middle of the night and you just aren’t sure if you should take them to the ER or wait until the morning. With Amwell, you can talk directly to a doctor who can help advise you.
“I am often able to reassure the parent that the child doesn’t need to be taken to an emergency room in the middle of the night, but can be seen by their pediatrician the next day,” she explains. “Most parents are extremely grateful that a pediatrician has looked at their child, and has told them that they are safe to wait until a more convenient time for them and their family.”
Online doctor appointments can also be very cost-effective. While the app accepts all major insurance providers and works just like it would at a regular doctor’s office with your copay, you can also pay cash for an appointment. Dr. Romm explains that the cost of a visit is $59, compared to the average national cost of $139 for an office visit or $645 for an emergency room visit.
For new mothers especially, an online doctor visit from your phone, tablet, or computer could quite literally be a lifesaver. Without ever leaving her house, a mother can talk to a therapist about her mental health as she transitions into parenthood, or a psychiatrist, should a more serious case of postpartum depression be suspected. Dr. Romm notes that anyone experiencing thoughts of harming themselves or others should immediately seek help from an emergency provider.
After experiencing breastfeeding issues her second child, Dr. Romm organized a new service for breastfeeding mothers through the Amwell app with International Board-Certified Lactation Consultants (IBCLCs) who can assistance for a wide range of breastfeeding problems. From a painful latch, milk supply issues (either too much or too little), back-to-work plans, plugged milk ducts, and more, support is available.
“I’m really proud that we’re able to offer this service, and love that we’re supporting moms and babies in so many ways!” Dr. Romm notes. “Sometimes we forget that telemedicine is great for moms and dads, not only for the kids, but for the parents themselves.”
There are many types of telehealth app services available, such as MDLive, LiveHealth Online Mobile, Amwell, Express Care Virtual, and more. Many of the apps accept insurance, collect copays, and can help with specific issues. They can also connect you with a bilingual provider as well.
As a working mom of four, my phone has become my life anyways, so it’s made sense for me to use it for our doctor appointments, too. (And I guess you could say it’s a better use of my phone than watching the Instagram stories of complete strangers. Not that I do that, of course …)