Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Digital Diagnosis

I crossed a new boundary today. I tried an online service, instead of going to Urgent Care to deal with my ongoing sinus issues.

I fully admit that I was a matter of practicality. In their ads they talk about it being quick and easy, and through my insurance provider it was also free. So I had the option of quick, easy, and free or the option of a long wait for $25, not including any ancillary testing.

And it was... relatively... quick and easy. Since it was my first time on the website I had to set up an account, which took a bit. But then it was a whole list of questions about my symptoms. Most of them were easy enough to answer. (After all "Have you been vomiting?" is pretty much a yes or no question.) But they kind of felt like they went on for days.

Then, when you're done with the "interview", you get to wait "approximately 30 minutes" for a nurse practitioner on the other end of the line to send you a link to your diagnosis, treatment plan, and other information.

When my email showed up, I found that there were some things that I had missed - because I hadn't had anywhere to mention them. Which - had I been in front of an actual, live, healthcare practitioner, I probably would have mentioned in conversation.

What kinds of things? Well, my treatment plan recommends that I irrigate my sinuses with a netipot or other means of flushing a ton of warm saline in and out of my sinuses. That's a lovely idea, except that I've tried it and, after that one unsuccessful attempt, now even the thought of it makes me sick to my stomach. I also didn't get to ask how ibuprofen - which on the bottle says is to be taken every 4 to 6 hours - is supposed to last 8 hours if I take a larger-than-usual dose.

The website, when all is said and done, offers you a chance for a follow-up phone consultation in 3 days if you're not feeling better. And it offers that - to everyone - for free. So far, I'm not sure if I'll be taking them up on that.

Here's the thing, though. Part of me wants to have that call on Friday just so that I can talk to a real, live person. I know that this saved me money and time, today, but I honestly think that in future I might just schedule the time and budget the money to be able to go in and talk to someone face-to-face. I want someone else to tell me whether my glands are the right level of squishy (since that's not something I've ever really studied). And I want that person to assure me - not just through an email template - that if I'm not feeling better in 3 days I should come back.

I know... I know... I'm old-fashioned. But there's something to be said for the human touch from time to time. And I think I'd rather have a medical exam where the "digits" are fingers attached to a human being instead of pixels on a screen.

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