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English: SAN DIEGO (March 7, 2011) Nurse pract...

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(ARA) – While the cure for the common cold remains elusive, medical treatment of many everyday ailments has become routine. Sinus infections, pink eye, bladder infections – these simple illnesses and many others today are well understood, easily diagnosed and effectively treated with modern medications.

Consumer access to medical information is also easier than ever. Since the first medical websites emerged in the late 1990s, people have flocked to them in skyrocketing numbers. Today, an estimated 80 percent of Americans go online to search for health information. Around the world, anyone with a computer and an Internet connection can tap into online information about various diseases and conditions, and learn about the medications and other treatments commonly prescribed to combat them.

Still, most health sites, while informative, can’t diagnose or treat you. They’re the online equivalent of a medical library, except they’re available with a few mouse clicks. People often type in their symptoms – or in many cases, those of their child – from their homes, offices and even mobile devices to find out what might be ailing them.

But today, consumers can get a lot more than just health information from online resources. A new breed of “online clinics” connects customers directly with experienced practitioners who can treat them safely – and very conveniently – wherever they are.

People who live in Minnesota and Wisconsin, for example, have access to, whose board-certified nurse practitioners offer professional health care anytime – days, nights and weekends, 365 days a year. The service is available to anyone, including children over age two.

“Consumers are embracing innovations that make quality health care more convenient,” said Kevin Palattao, vice president of virtuwell, founded by the large Minnesota nonprofit health care organization, HealthPartners. “We provide Minnesotans and Wisconsinites with personalized diagnoses, treatment plans, and even prescriptions if needed. It takes less than a half-hour, and it’s all online.”

Virtuwell treats most common medical conditions, including acne, bladder infections, yeast infections, colds, coughs, allergies, flu, lice, pink eye, sinus infections, and rashes and other skin irritations. The process includes a thorough medical interview, and in some cases, a user-submitted picture as well. And consumers can connect immediately with a nurse practitioner about their case by phone at any time, day or night.

With no appointment needed and 24-hour online access, people can rely on virtual clinics whenever illness occurs. So far, thousands have.

“Say you realize you have a bladder infection at 3 a.m. on a Saturday. By just going online, you can have a professional virtually by your side, providing the answers you want immediately,” Palattao says. “Customers tell us again and again that we’re making a real difference in their busy lives. And with people paying more health care costs from their own pockets, the savings are very welcome, too”

People often get sick while traveling. However, they don’t need to be at home to get help from virtuwell. Minnesota and Wisconsin residents can even have prescriptions called into a nearby pharmacy if they’re outside their home state. And follow-up care, if needed, is provided at no extra charge.

How it works

* Visit to take a quick online interview.

* Get a diagnosis and a treatment plan from a nurse practitioner, along with a prescription sent to your pharmacy (if needed).

* If symptoms indicate a more severe condition, referrals to appropriate in-person care are always free.

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Author: Andy Quayle

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