Do you or your child have asthma? It’s not always easy to tell, but if your child’s class has 22 students it’s likely two of them are asthmatic. If your department at work has 24 employees, it’s likely two of them have asthma. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the number of people with asthma continues to grow: approximately 25 million people, or eight percent of the U.S. population, have an asthma diagnosis.
Under-diagnosis of asthma is one problem; millions don’t necessarily associate wheezing or coughing with a more serious condition. Under-diagnosis or misdiagnosis of allergy is a related concern because immune system response to allergens is a major asthma trigger. And, according to the CDC, in 2013 less than half of children with asthma reported are being taught how to avoid environmental triggers. Allergy-induced asthma sufferers number in the tens of millions, but that doesn’t count other allergies, especially to food. Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE) estimates that 15 million Americans suffer from food allergies.
The not-so-good news for allergy sufferers, including asthmatics who haven’t identified or learned to manage their triggers, is that diagnosis can be complex. With such high numbers of potentially undiagnosed patients, it’s likely many patients suspect, but can’t confirm that something just isn’t right. A diagnosis remains elusive, especially for those outside areas with major allergy centers or with sufficient numbers of allergists accepting patients.
A new opportunity to access medically necessary care may lead to answers for many undiagnosed asthmatics and allergy sufferers. In February, Thermo Fisher Scientific announced that patients can start accessing its advanced allergic sensitization tests through PlushCare’s highly trained telehealth physicians in more than 31 states. PlushCare, which is the highest patient-rated medical provider on Yelp, is filling a critical access-to-care gap in healthcare.
“Every spring millions of people seek out allergy relief through over-the-counter drugs without really knowing their diagnosis,” said Maeve O’Connor, MD FACAAI FAAAAI FACP. “Telemedicine options like PlushCare allow patients to get accurate allergy results in a convenient, cost-effective way before seeking care from an allergist, depending on their diagnosis.”
Undiagnosed patients who visit www.plushcare.com/testing/allergy consult with qualified physicians, all trained at top-50 U.S. medical institutions, who can order appropriate allergy tests, if medically necessary. Patients can then schedule testing locally at a participating lab partner, after which they’ll review results with the telehealth physician, all without setting foot in a doctor’s office. Everything, except for the actual test, can be done using a smartphone or computer.
“We’ve seen firsthand how life-changing it can be when you finally know what’s causing those problems with breathing, itching, rashes, or congestion,” said Rebecca Rosenberger, MMSc, PA-C, clinical education manager, Thermo Fisher. “This new opportunity brings together two technology advancements, telehealth and blood-based testing, to help millions more Americans who may be suffering unnecessarily from the effects of allergies.”
For its part, PlushCare is helping fill a gap in healthcare by connecting patients with same-day medical care through mobile and desktop devices. The company believes that allergy consultation, supported by proven allergy testing done locally by labs, is something that can be safely and effectively handled online. The initial focus is on identifying allergic sensitization to common environmental allergens – seasonal and perennial, indoor and outdoor – in the states served by PlushCare’s physicians.
Thermo Fisher’s tests, called ImmunoCAP Specific IgE blood tests, are fast and easy to administer to patients of any age regardless of skin condition, current medication, symptom, disease activity or pregnancy status. These same tests are used by clinicians worldwide to assist in allergy diagnosis. Patients can learn more about these allergy tests – and allergy in general – at www.allergyinsider.com.