Using telehealth to help you through flu season

Cold and flu season is here, which means it may be time to get your flu shot and stock up on health essentials. 

Last flu season, more than 40 million people contracted influenza, resulting in at least 18 million medical visits and about a half million hospitalizations, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The flu can be serious every year, but this year brings new concerns as it combines with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. It may be more important than ever to be prepared and seek early treatment to help avoid possible complications.

woman sick in bed talking to her doctor on video

For many patients, telehealth may be a great way to help diagnose and treat illnesses like the flu. If the flu is spreading in your community and you develop a cough and fever, doctors can help assess your symptoms virtually, without having to visit the office. This may help you avoid traveling to the clinic — including in bad weather during the winter months — and experiencing a potential long wait when you don’t feel well. It also helps reduce the chance of spreading the virus to others.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, more clinics are offering virtual care options, which may be covered by your health plan. Some providers may even offer extended hours and may have greater flexibility in when they can see you compared to an in-office appointment. 

As you gear up for cold and flu season, here are a few telehealth tips to help you get prepared: 

  • Download apps now and sign up for a telehealth account. It’s easier to set up your services when you’re feeling well and not in a rush before a visit. Check with your provider to find out which services they use, plus the instructions to download. Plan to input your contact information and insurance details now, so your telehealth service is ready when you need it most.
  • Check for an appointment as soon as symptoms appear. If your doctor thinks you might benefit from antiviral medications for the flu, these usually have to be started within a few days after your symptoms begin, so don’t delay. Telehealth may help you get diagnosed more quickly, so you can start your treatment sooner. 
  • Be prepared to take your vital signs. Check home thermometers, blood pressure cuffs or scales to make sure they work well. Having them ready will allow you to share results with your provider more quickly during your telehealth visit.

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Plans are insured through UnitedHealthcare Insurance Company or one of its affiliated companies. For Medicare Advantage and Prescription Drug Plans: A Medicare Advantage organization with a Medicare contract and a Medicare-approved Part D sponsor. Enrollment in these plans depends on the plan’s contract renewal with Medicare.