“You can’t do that by Telemedicine!”
• Telemedicine is being increasingly used worldwide because of its numerous advantages, primarily easier access to highly qualified physicians.
• Appendicitis is unlikely in a child with abdominal pain who is still active and running around.
• My Emergency Dr helps distinguish between patients who need to go to the emergency department and those who can stay at home and/or be followed up by a GP.
The electric lightbulb. The telephone. Aeroplanes and cars. Personal computers and online shopping. These are just a few examples of concepts that were once ridiculed and heavily criticised but have now become ubiquitous and indispensable.
And yet, telemedicine is not an entirely new concept, having been around in various forms since the late 1960s. Fifteen million Americans used telehealth in some form in 2014 and 72% of hospitals in America currently use telemedicine daily as part of patient management.1
What does this mean for a concerned mother who thinks her young child with abdominal pain could be having appendicitis? Firstly, the majority of patients presenting to emergency departments have medical conditions which are not life-threatening and do not require urgent intervention. Secondly, doctors obtain a lot of information about a patient’s condition just from taking a good history and looking at the patient “from the end of the bed”. If your child has abdominal pain and is jumping on a trampoline in the backyard, he is unlikely to have appendicitis; children with appendicitis will usually prefer not to move as movement worsens the pain. The doctor who answers your call to My Emergency Dr is an emergency medicine specialist: s/he is highly qualified with several years’ experience in emergency medicine, and will be able to tell you based on your history and what your child looks like (via the High Definition camera on the app) whether or not to take your child to the emergency department.
In the case of My Emergency Dr, Telemedicine is essentially the difference between getting a qualified, highly experienced emergency physician to reassure you from the comfort of your home that your child is ok, or waiting several hours in a crowded emergency department to be told that your child is ok.
Telemedicine is the future, and the future is now.
1. The Wall Street Journal: “How Telemedicine is Transforming Healthcare.” https://www.wsj.com/articles/how-telemedicine-is-transforming-health-care-1466993402. Accessed 30/07/2017