Have a sick child? Here’s when to call the doctor

Telemedicine companies now offer online access to physicians through a video visit, and some insurance companies reimburse for it.

Calling a doctor or doctor’s office with a medical question is something people take for granted, at least here in the U.S.

It’s a privilege that some treat as a right.

This may be driven by the medical insurance industry. In order to be on an insurance company’s provider panel, doctors must be available or have a substitute available 24 hours a day, every day of the year.

But when is it medically appropriate to call a doctor’s office? Certainly to schedule a routine appointment. What if you just want to ask a question?

With smart phones and computers, physicians are accessible to their patients almost anywhere.

If a problem is serious enough that you  need a physician opinion, then both you and your doctor deserve a face to face encounter.

It isn’t fair to you or your doctor, or good medical practice, to expect the doctor to make a medical decision based solely on the information gathered in a phone call or email.

Now there is a third option-virtual medicine. Telemedicine companies now offer online access to physicians through a video visit, and some insurance companies reimburse for it.

When to  call your doctor?

For strictly procedural questions, a phone call or email may suffice; these can be answered by a nurse or a non-clinical staff per physician instruction. These questions might include

  • Clarification on medication instructions
  • Reporting normal test results
  • Scheduling follow up office visits or diagnostic procedures
  • Billing, insurance and payment issues
You might call your doctor for test results- or access them on line in a patient portal.
You might call your doctor for test results- or access the reports on -line in a patient portal.

When to see your doctor?

If you call your doctor with a medical question, expect to schedule an appointment.

MD Mama blogger, Dr. Claire McCarthy, a pediatrician and medical communications editor at Boston Children’s Hospital gives this advice about symptoms in children that should prompt a call to the doctor, and usually a visit to the doctor.

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Although the article is directed to parents, the advice applies to adult illness as well. Symptoms for which evaluation should not be delayed if severe, persistent or worsening include

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Fainting, passing out
  • Hives, swelling, rash (due to an allergic reaction) 
  • Lethargy or unexplained sleepiness
  • Severe pain
  • Vomiting and/or diarrhea if persistent or profuse 
  • Burns
  • Bleeding, uncontrolled 
  • Fever

And what is a true emergency? I cover that at this link.

Reliable keys to identify a medical emergency

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