Online doctor’s appointments are my new favorite thing (Sponsored)

Take care of yourself: VIsit a doctor from your couch with this online system.

Thanks to American Well for sponsoring this Rookie Moms post.Tracking Pixel

Waking up and realizing you have pink-eye/strep throat/a bladder infection is immediate license for a pity party, right? Not only am I suffering from some horrendous malady, but seeking treatment looms as an obstacle that will derail my whole day. That’s the first scenario in which the existence of online doctor’s appointments is better than sliced bread with Nutella spread on it; the second is when I am plagued by a physical issue that’s less urgent, and therefore easy to ignore.

Procrastination, I know you well.

For a couple of months my fingers have been bothering me. Not exactly Emergency-Room-worthy. Stiffness, aches, and even a touch of numbness in my fingertips made me wonder if smart phone overuse is actually hurting my body. But it has been easy to spend 99% of my time ignoring it and 1% of my time worrying that I’ve got arthritis (even though I don’t totally know what arthritis is) and that I’m allowing it to fester in a way that will produce more serious long-term effects. In other words, I’m not only sore, but possibly lazy and stupid.

This morning, I took action. I went to AmericanWell.com and signed up. It’s a website with on-call doctors including internists, nutritionists, pediatricians, and family doctors. I used the code ROOKIEMOMS (which you are welcome to use as well) for one free visit, and I connected with a doctor via a webcam session.

That was an hour ago, and now I’m about to go pick up a prescription for an anti-inflammatory and have a list of self-care instructions in a PDF that was sent to me after the doctor visit. Yay, me!

How does it work?
After signing up, you can browse doctors who are immediately available or schedule a particular physician at a convenient time. I picked a RIGHT NOW visit with a doctor whose profile I liked best. It was pretty cool, like having a doctor’s visit on The Jetsons. After I requested to connect with her, my screen showed a quick animation of what to expect next, and then we were connected.

These visits can be held by webcam or even telephone — when seeing is not part of the diagnosis.

I used the website from my laptop, but my friend Sammy used her cell phone to have a doctor’s visit. She told me that when she was recently sick (her throat was coated in white and she felt like she was swallowing knives) and was on vacation in New York City, she initially panicked, “How am I going to find a doctor here?” Then she remembered American Well. She literally held the phone camera up to her mouth so that the doctor on the other end could see her symptoms. She was able to get an antibiotic prescribed and felt better in two days. (The app is available for both iPhone and Android users.)

What are the doctors like?
When I logged on, about 10 doctors were available on-the-spot and many many more were available for future appointments. The one I chose was fantastic: knowledgeable, empathetic, solutions-oriented, plus, she was both competent and patient with the technology that linked us. She even said, “If you were my daughter, I would tell you…” which made me feel confident and secure with her advice.

How to have an online doctor's appointment

A system with safety nets
When my laptop started acting a little flaky and I couldn’t hear some of what Dr. Mia was saying via our webcam connection, we were able to use an included chat window. I let her know I couldn’t hear some of her words (and I didn’t want to miss anything!), and she quickly routed the session to our cell phones to continue the conversation. This transition was seamless as it was still part of the American Well appointment system. Since she didn’t need to see me with her eyes anymore, and could tell I wasn’t in serious distress, we could just talk on the phone, she told me.

Let’s just say that it was smoother than many of my conference calls with Heather and leave it at that.

Is it the same as a real-life doctor’s visit?
Of course not. In some important ways, it’s even better.

  1. At no time are you left sitting alone on a table in a paper robe wondering how long this waiting will go on.
  2. I received the doctor’s notes from our conversation in an emailed PDF at the end. I love that, because I didn’t want to forget anything she suggested! (Note to self: Try to use non-dominant hand for tooth-brushing and other manual tasks to give overused hand a break.)
  3. The appointment was on my timeline, in my house, and could not have been more convenient. No more excuses.

And there’s nothing to feel weird about. Your experience is totally private and HIPAA-compliant, but if you want to share information with your Primary Care Provider later, you can. He or she will certainly not blame you for pro-actively securing medical care on a Saturday night if you need to.  And Mamas, you are totally worth it.

The good news is I have mild beginnings of carpal-tunnel syndrome and by making changes now I can take care of it. I will not be buying a cane anytime soon.

When I told Heather about my experience, she said, “I love any service that lets moms do their errands without leaving the house. If I could visit the doctor during my child’s nap rather than securing childcare or bringing along a screamer, I’d TOTALLY do it.”

How much does it cost?
A visit is $49 with a physician and $25 with a nutritionist. Some insurance plans cover online medical visits, so find out if yours does. (Use our code for one free visit.)

This is a sponsored post written by me about my real experience with American Well. If you want to try it, set up your account now so you are ready to go. The code ROOKIEMOMS for one free visit will be good until 4/30/2014. Seriously, take care of your self and head over to American Well instead of reading one more blog post.

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RookieMoms.com co-founder Whitney lives with her husband, son, and daughter in the San Francisco Bay Area where she writes about parenting, crafts, and activities that moms can do with babies in tow. She and Heather also publish 510Families.com, a site for East Bay parents and are the authors of The Rookie Mom's Handbook and Stuff Every Mom Should Know.

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