Illnesses never go on holiday. And often they strike at the worst possible time. Christmas Eve your toddler starts complaining of an earache. Or the day before Thanksgiving you develop a miserable cough, cold and sore throat.

What do you do in such cases? The doctor’s office is closed. You can go to the emergency room, which you don’t really need, or tough it out and feel miserable on the holiday.

Or, you can try a telehealth service, such as Parkview’s OnDemand, available 24/7. Medical professionals are on staff to provide a medical video consultation to whoever needs it. All that the patient needs is a smartphone or a computer that has a microphone and camera.

This service is for non-emergency situations only. Serious symptoms such as chest pain, shortness of breath, fainting, broken bones, etc. require a trip to the ER.

However minor illnesses and medical conditions, such as pink eye, colds, upper respiratory infections and even skin rashes, can often be diagnosed via telehealth consultations.

After a diagnosis the medical professional can then call in a prescription to the caller’s preferred pharmacy. They will not prescribe any controlled substances.

Stacie Housholder is a nurse practitioner who works for Parkview OnDemand. She usually starts a “visit” by listening to the patient’s symptoms and then asking appropriate questions. Sometimes a patient will upload pictures, for example of their throat, if that’s what is bothering them. She may be able to make a diagnosis visually, without taking a swab of the throat. “Strep can be treated through this platform,” she said.

If she deems a diagnosis is beyond her scope given the constraints of telehealth, she will refer the patient to a walk-in clinic.

A parent can call on behalf of their ill child, too, as long as they are 2 or older.

OnDemand launched in 2017, said Brandy Fey, manager of Virtual Health Services for Parkview. They’re getting close to treating their 5,000th patient. She said 90% of the calls that come in to Parkview OnDemand are treated by the medical professional on staff. About 8% are referred to an urgent care clinic and about 2% are sent to the ER.

The cost per “visit” is $49, payable by credit or debit card. It is not affiliated with any insurance plan.

To access Parkview OnDemand you can download the app on your smartphone or visit Parkview.com/OnDemand. First-time users will have to register their account and answer several questions. Then users can request a visit and be placed in a virtual waiting room. Fey said it takes about 2-3 minutes to set up an account, and the wait time for a “visit” is usually 7-8 minutes.

Other benefits: if you’re feeling lousy you don’t have to leave home, and you won’t be exposed to other sick people like you would in a real waiting room.

Calls have commonalities depending on the time of year, Fey said. In the springtime it’s frequently allergies; in the summer it tends to be rashes; and fall and winter are frequently about colds and flu.

Fey said the value of telehealth is that it “allows another access point” to medical care. If they have a smartphone or computer, and a debit or credit card they can get quick care from the comfort of their own home no matter what insurance they have or if they have no insurance at all.

It’s about helping people in their time of need, Fey said.

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