April 9, 2021 by Muriel Sommers
Online Urgent Care: A New Way of Life
In the span of just one year, the coronavirus pandemic has dramatically reshaped healthcare, with millions of patients turning to telemedicine for many of the services that used to require a visit to the doctor’s office. Urgent care is no exception, according to David Mishkin, M.D., an emergency medicine specialist with Baptist Health South Florida.
(Watch now: Dr. David Mishkin discusses how the coronavirus pandemic has made telemedicine a convenient option for many patients. Video by Dylan Kyle.)
“So much has changed with telehealth over the past year,” Dr. Mishkin says. “Overnight, our telemedicine platform, Baptist Health Care On Demand, reached this inflection point where patients were not only willing to use our platform to connect with their healthcare provider, it became a necessity.”
For many people, he adds, it was the safest way – “the only way, really” – for them to seek care. “Now, after a year of getting comfortable with the technology, people have come to realize that Care On Demand is easy, convenient and affordable – and a really effective way to connect with their healthcare providers.”
Patients aren’t the only ones who have benefitted from online urgent care on Baptist Health Care On Demand, according to Dr. Mishkin. “For physicians, the Baptist Health Care on Demand app became a valuable tool, allowing us to communicate with our patients and evaluate their health care needs even when they can’t or shouldn’t come in to the office. And, because it’s not taking place in a busy office or clinic, it feels less rushed.”
One may wonder how, exactly, urgent care can be delivered in a virtual setting. Dr. Mishkin, who treats patients both in person and through Baptist Health Care On Demand, says the platform is staffed by experienced providers with specialized training in urgent care, who can see almost any type of condition and provide good, valuable consultation. “Our practice is able to manage so many different types of conditions,” Dr. Mishkin says. “We’re doing as many urgent care evaluations through the app as we are in-person at our Urgent Care centers.”
Although virtual visits aren’t appropriate for every ailment, especially life-threatening medical emergencies, Dr. Mishkin says there are a wide variety of conditions that can be managed from home, safely and effectively:
- Seasonal Allergies
- Back Strains and Sprains
- Conjunctivitis (Pink Eye)
- Common Cold
- Influenza (Flu)
- Minor Burns or Lacerations
- Painful Urination
- Sinus Infections
- Upper Respiratory Illness
- Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs)
- Yeast Infections
“Some of the conditions we treat may at some point require higher level care,” Dr. Mishkin says, “but we’re a great first line for patients who want an informed diagnosis from a medical professional but don’t want to have to wait for hours as a walk-in at their doctor’s office or in a busy urgent care center.”
Baptist Health Care On Demand is what Dr. Mishkin calls the health system’s “digital front door” and he says that any patient who knocks on that door and requests a visit can be assured that they’ll be in good hands. “We have access to your Baptist Health electronic medical record and have an abundance of resources we can provide for whatever you may need to help you get better,” he says. “That may include referring you to a specialty practice, sending you out for outpatient diagnostic imaging or labs, or having close follow-up with your provider – all within the Baptist Health network.”
Most of what a patient needs for minor injuries and illnesses, Dr. Mishkin notes, can be handled entirely through an online urgent care visit, including evaluation, diagnosis, treatment plan and prescription medicines, if needed. But sometimes he and his colleagues have actually saved lives by making timely diagnoses of heart attacks or strokes and immediately referring patients to higher level emergency care.
“We’ve had elderly patients contact Baptist Health Care on Demand because they’re having chest pains or dizziness,” Dr. Mishkin says. “While we always advise first calling 911 if you’re experiencing a life-threatening medical emergency, the fact that they would call us first – even before calling 911 – says a lot, I think, about the trust many of our patients have in both our telehealth providers and Baptist Health.”
Dr. Mishkin emphasizes that Baptist Health Care On Demand urgent care providers are highly skilled and have vast experience with virtual visits. “They’ll make you feel very comfortable and they’ll bring the best out of your evaluation so that they can provide you with a good analysis of what’s going on,” he says. “Plus, they have instant access to your Baptist Health electronic medical record and can refer to that during your visit, for a more informed diagnosis.”
Even elderly patients have embraced the technology needed for a typical virtual visit with a healthcare provider, according to Dr. Mishkin. “For many of them, over the past year, video chats have been the only way they’ve been able to keep in touch with family and friends, or to see their doctor.”
The beauty of an online urgent care visit is that it is simple and can be done from anywhere, at any time, but a virtual visit can still be a learning experience for some.
Dr. Mishkin offers these helpful tips for making the most of your telehealth experience:
- Download Baptist Health Care On Demand from the app store or Google Play and take a few minutes to familiarize yourself with its features so that you’re better prepared for your virtual visit. “We’re continuing to make upgrades to provide a really good user experience,” Dr. Mishkin says. “We also have some great resources on our website about how to make the most of your visit.”
- Find a quiet space where you can talk openly and privately without distractions or interruptions – just as if you were in your doctor’s office. Make sure the room you’re in is well-lit and that the light source is in front of you, not behind you. “We want to be able to see you really well,” Dr. Mishkin says.
- Instead of holding your phone, tablet or computer, place it on a level surface while speaking with your provider. Keep a pen and paper handy in case you want to take notes during your visit. Keep in mind you will always have access to your discharge papers after the visit to refer back to the provider’s notes.
- Think about what your symptoms are and how you want to communicate them to your provider. Have a list of all your prescription medicines with you in case you need to refer to it during your visit. “Some medications may have been prescribed outside of the Baptist Health network and don’t show up in our records,” Dr. Mishkin notes.
- If there are things you want to show your provider in more detail – a skin rash, for instance – you can use the Baptist Health Care On Demand app to upload photos before your virtual visit. “You can also upload previous lab reports or other documents that might be helpful for us as we conduct our evaluation,” Dr. Mishkin notes.
- If the patient is a child, Dr. Mishkin cautions that Baptist Health Care On Demand regulations require an adult parent or legal guardian supervise the visit and be present with the child throughout the visit. “Just like when you take your child to the doctor, your provider will want to talk with both you and the child, examine the child and come up with a treatment plan that works for both of you.”
Dr. Mishkin says that the Baptist Health Care On Demand team is committed to providing top-quality “webside manner,” the digital equivalent of bedside manner. “That means we make eye contact with you throughout the visit, we speak clearly so you can understand everything we say, and we take the time to really understand what’s going on with you.”
What does Dr. Mishkin think the future holds for telehealth? He thinks it’s here to stay. “The future of telehealth is so bright because of everything we’ve learned over the past year,” he says. Dr. Mishkin envisions healthcare moving to a hybrid model where there’ll be times when patients can interact with their providers on a video visit, and then see them in person when necessary. “It’s what patients prefer, it’s what providers prefer, and the technology just keeps getting better.”