The husband and I were watching HOUSE, M.D. last night and in this particular episode the infamous infectious disease specialist diagnosed another doctor virtually. You know, because it is something only Dr. Gregory House can do and it is, after all, television drama (so, anything is possible.) The woman doctor falls into a coma and is brought back to life by her partner drinking her pee and drilling a hole in her skull to relieve intracranial pressure.
But are virtual diagnoses realistic? But, more importantly, are they safe?
Should We Trust Virtual Pediatricians?
VirtualPediatrics.com is set to launch a new virtual consultation program in 10 states this month catering to children and using a web cam. Virtual Pediatrics feels that by creating a web-based doctor visit with a low payment of just $49.95 that it will provide patients with multitude of benefits that they would not find in a hands-on physician.
The Benefits of a Virtual Pediatrician
According to VirtualPediatrics, they feel that their services are beneficial because they:
- Pediatric Advice - Certified Pediatric Doctors,Physician Assistants &Nurse Practitioners are on standby for consultation, to help your child start feeling better now.
- Save Time – Don’t wait to see your doctor in a day or two. Don’t wait in a crowded office or ER waiting room with other sick patients.
- Pay Less - The cost of a Pediatric consultation is less than many walk-in clinic fees and insurance co-pays.
- Access Anywhere – Virtual Pediatrics can treat your child anywhere – home, daycare, or on vacation.
The Disadvantages of a Virtual Pediatrician
While I am no degreed doctor, I do feel my opinions bring up some valuable concerns. Below, I have listed some downfalls, I feel, that having a virtual pediatrician would provide.
- Inability to take stats – There is no nurse or doctor to take your temperature (for themselves), blood pressure, and/or listen to your lungs and heart. If a virtual doctor is seeing a child patient for the first time, then they are completely trusting on the medical history according to the parent, who may or may not even be aware of medical issues of their own child. For example, I had no idea that my 3 year old had a lingering heart murmur for a few years. Now, just imagine that a parent is expressing concerns that their child is having breathing difficulties. The doctor cannot listen to their lungs or their heart and have to rely completely on webcam sound and virtual presentation. The mother may mention the child seemed to have a cold a few “weeks ago”, and is worried it may be pneumonia. But what if, it is, in fact, a heart issue? How would the doctor even know?
- No diagnostic tests – The doctor cannot swab your child’s throat for strep (a common illness in childhood) so one of two things will happen:
- The possible strep would go un-treated or
- The non-strep viral disease will get treated with unnecessary antibiotics.
- No shots – Not that I am a fan of shots, as I do feel that vaccination world has some serious issues to fix. However, sometimes a shot is needed. For example, when Katelyn was around 6 months old and getting her teeth in, she would bite me as she nursed. At one point she bit a nice little dent into my nipple. Every time she would nurse, she would reopen the wound and reintroduce mouth bacteria into it, giving me a very nasty staff infection. Originally I was treated with regular antibiotics but when that failed, they had to give me some shots right in my toosh. The infection was so bad, they had originally talked about admitting me if the infection did not get better. Therefore, in this situation, I’d have to go in and see a doctor anyway.
Can you see how these SIMPLE things are incredibly important? I can only imagine that many people will go incorrectly misdiagnosed and antibiotics will, of course, be overused. Virtual Pediatricians is just a bad, bad, idea.
What do you think?