Telemedicine THEN: More on Telemedicine and the VA

The year is 2003 and Brian*, a cancer patient, is having a miserable day, after an even more miserable night. The day before started out alright, but by late morning he was having difficulties breathing and he was unable to hold down any food. On top of that (even though he had remarkably high tolerance) he was beginning to feel real pain. Having had no sleep or rest he was physically exhausted and felt completely unable to cope with the stress brought on by a usual day.

Brian lived 45 miles away from his VA medical center. Because of his medications, he was unable to drive, even if he did have a car. Finances were too tight to call for a taxi and his closest friend, who stayed with him on the weekends, would not arrive until the wee hours the following morning. He just wasn’t sure he would be able to hold on.

He called his oncologist , who told him, “Listen Brian, there’s a shuttle available to your area today so just come on in to the office. You missed your last appointment so, even though it sounds like all you need is a med adjustment, today would be a good day to play ‘catch up’.” Then he added, “Besides, I think have a solution to the problem of scheduling visits.”

Enter “Telemedicine”.

Cancer patients who are either trying to deal with their ‘end of life’ issues or are at a stage where they require chemotherapy have always been an underserved demographic. They’re subject to a type of stress that most people cannot understand. Perhaps they’re unable to get transportation when they need it because they are living within a strictly fixed income. Maybe their discomfort or pain level has led them to the point where they ‘just don’t care anymore’. Constant travel back and forth to the doctor, which may only be inconvenient to some, can evolve into severe stress for patients with life threatening conditions like cancer. Either way, care during chemotherapy and end of life has suffered. Some solution has been needed.

Healthcare Innovation by Design

Healthcare Innovation by Design – one of many sources of telemedical devices

Because of collaboration that developed between the National Cancer Institute (NCI) and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) from the mid to late 1990’s to the early 2000’s **, the problem was tackled and initial solutions found. Cancer patients were given the option of electronic monitoring of their symptoms so that the unique health problems they encountered could be addressed quickly and effectively. One such solution was a device called the “Health Buddy”, which could be connected to a telephone, giving them immediate access to their care coordinators.

Daily calls to a central terminal would enable the patients to report concerns and issues they may be experiencing, such as pain, breathing problems, depression, nausea or any other symptoms. This would be done through responses to detailed, multiple choice, voice-prompt questions relating to a dozen symptoms, entered on the phone handset numeral buttons. These responses would then be analyzed by the patient’s oncology team provider, whether the oncologist him/herself or the oncology nurse. If responses appeared to indicate complications requiring face-to-face consultation or that intervention such as a change in medications or dosages were needed, such action(s) could be affected immediately rather than having to wait for a consultation appointment.

Getting back to Brian, his visit with his oncologist resulted in the needed change of medication to ease his pain and discomfort but, more importantly, his physician introduced him to the “Health Buddy” system. Brian was soon provided the device to use at home and his stress level, hence other health issues, improved immensely.

The subject of Telemedicine and Telehealth has progressed far beyond this technology since then. It is destined to see increased efficiency, collaboration between facilities in not only cancer care but all other branches of medicine and home health care and accelerated research on a multitude of diseases and genetic conditions.

Thanks to the VA’s decision to pursue this technology, telemedicine has already helped veterans from all walks of life gain more immediate care for their medical conditions. From telephone consultations to web based teleconferencing “doctor visits”, Telemedicine has proven its worth to the health care issues of the day.

 *Not his real name.
**Sources consulted did not provide exact dates.
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Jon Bon Jovi, VA and Project REACH

(On this Memorial Day, 2013: God Bless Those Who Gave Much and the Families of Those Who Gave All…Heroes, Every One)

Catch your attention? Hope so!

So, what do Jon Bon Jovi, the VA (Veterans Administration) and also HUD (Housing and Urban Development) have in common… and just what is Project REACH?

Jon Bon Jovi, HUD and Health and Human Services collaborated with the VA Center for Innovation when it sponsored a mobile application competition called, you guessed it: “Project REACH”. The competition was created in March, 2012 to help those veterans, as well as others, who have found themselves in a homeless situation and in need of services available to them through various organizations via mobile and information technology.

The challenge to the community of software developers was to develop a way for our homeless vets to have access to assistance through local resources in order to get the support and physical care they need. The five finalists of the competition, selected in June of 2012, were allotted a certain amount of time to perfect their applications and last month, April 2013, the winner was announced.

“Qbase”, which is based in Reston, Virginia, won the $25,000 prize for the app, “Homeless REACH”, (Real-time Electronic Access for Caregivers and Homeless) which is a great tool for caregivers, social and other workers who are helping homeless veterans, according to Eric Shinseki, Secretary of Veterans Affairs in Washington.

reachLogo

The app will be able to access Veterans Administration open data, as well as open data from other agencies, both government and private, strictly for locating resources for the homeless anywhere in the country.

To quote Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, Shaun Donovan, “We’ve come to rely on smart phones and tablets to access information and now we can apply this same technology to help people find a place to sleep or direct them to medical and other vital services.” (1)

Veterans Administration Medical Centers all over the country have been using telemedicine and telehealth technology in greater or lesser degrees for decades, starting with the simplest form of anytime teleconsultations with a charge nurse. More recently, remote monitoring for certain conditions have been gaining attention as possible additions to the health care arsenal – again, in some locations more than others, depending on need and acceptance.

Imagine the benefits to be had by combining all medical care technologies together!

As for Jon Bon Jovi…I can certainly remember “back in the day” when I used to love to sit and listen to that band’s music. To know that he has combined forces with the VA, HUD and HHS to assist Project REACH attain its goals though…

                             Well now. Wow.

Just. Wow.

In Loving Memory of All Our Military From All Wars Who Made the Ultimate Sacrifice. We Thank You.

In Loving Memory of All Our Military From All Wars Who Made the Ultimate Sacrifice. We Thank You.


Reference(s) and Citation(s):

U.S. Department of Veterans' Affairs. (April 15, 2013). VA, HUD and 
Jon Bon Jovi Announce “Project REACH” Grand Prize Winner. In Office 
of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs. Retrieved May 25, 2013, 
from http://www.va.gov/opa/pressrel/pressrelease.cfm?id=2434.

Sowing and Reaping Good Health

“You reap what you sow…”

It’s an old saying, one that is usually meant in a strictly philosophical way. You know, the Golden Rule and all of that. We have probably all heard it at some time or another, most likely from our grandparents. This quote has grown from being a simple, spiritual lesson on how to treat people, to one that encompasses everything about life…including your physical health.

“Your Are What You Eat”

We’re constantly cautioned against eating high sugar snacks, whether it’s the middle of the day or just before bedtime. Without going all science-y (which you can get by talking to a doctor or by looking it up on the internet), let me just repeat how it was explained to me decades ago when I was a sugar loving fool!

Consuming simple carbohydrates, such as sugar or fructose, raises serotonin and blood sugar levels. This falsely signals your pancreas that there are extra reserves of insulin available for converting sugar into energy. Thus triggered (usually by biting into that candy bar), the pancreas then releases large amounts of insulin into your blood stream, does the conversion thingy and voila’! you get instant (very short term) energy which is called a ‘sugar rush’. The rush generally lasts for only about an hour before your energy abruptly vanishes, just like turning off a faucet…aka “The Crash”.

This is not a good way to prepare for sleep, by the way.

19531Our blood sugar must be maintained at a particular level in order for the pancreas to do its job. The best way to insure this is to make sure you consume an appropriate amount of complex carbohydrates (found in whole grains, nuts and legumes) which actually do build the reserves you need for sustained energy.

By the way, craving sugar can be an indication that you aren’t giving your body other things it needs to stay healthy or that you have underlying health issues. If you find that you crave sugar more than just every now and then you should probably talk to a physician about it, just to be on the safe side.

What you take into your body will ultimately show in your health, energy levels and frame of mind.

“Burnout”

Keeping up with daily work, updating ‘works in progress’, research for future projects already lined up, being available as a consultant, keeping track of correspondence which will “pile up” if it’s not checked often and trying to keep a record of the work done from home; it requires a lot of organizational skills in order to get it all done. All that plus volunteer work and a home life. Pretty demanding stuff and a lot more time consuming than it sounds.

Multi-tasking is all fine and dandy, but there is such a thing as too much of a good thing.

10142500-overworked-and-frustrated-woman-with-files-on-the-deskMental exhaustion carries with it pretty much the same result as physical exhaustion. You become stressed and therefore suffer functionally. Unlike your body does when it’s dead tired, though, you can’t really just “push through” and expect your thought processes to magically adapt.

When you overtax your body  it takes a bit more time to recuperate than it takes to recover from simple mental exhaustion; taking around 5-10 minutes to clear your mind or a 15-20 minute “power nap” usually suffices to boost your mental energy for another hour or two.

A very important note here: If you notice that either you or a co-worker seems to also be suffering from confusion or is having difficulties talking, it may be time to call 911 or at least talk to a doctor, as signs of mental exhaustion and confusion can also be signs of a stroke.

A study by Louisiana State University led to the conclusion that employees whose jobs primarily involved computer work had a higher performance level and greater productivity when their schedule included even just a 30 second break every 15 minutes or so, followed by a 10-14 minute break every two hours.

Writers know about that.

“Birds of a feather”

Surrounding yourself with like minded individuals who are supportive and encouraging is more important than you might think. Obviously you can’t completely avoid negative people if you live in this world, but you can pick and choose who you deliberately spend time with.

untitledNegative people can not only ruin your mood and make you feel depressed, they can also trigger a stress response that will affect your entire body, like high blood pressure which can basically burn out your adrenals and leave you with no energy. Not only do you expose yourself to health threatening issues but, aside from that, spending time around negative people might affect your own personality as well.

If you aren’t sure that someone else’s negativity is causing your energy drain, you have a couple of options:

  1. if you feel drained all the time, get in touch with a doctor and find out if a health condition or illness is taking its toll on you, or
  2. take a minute to analyze how you feel when you’re in the same vicinity as that person.

If you can feel a definite difference between being around that person vs being in the company of a someone you know to be a good friend…in other words if just standing close to them makes you jittery, feel like pulling away or makes you feel like you want to go to sleep…then avoid that person as much as possible.

Good health is so much more than exercise and diet. Your stress levels and emotions will always indicate whether or not you have sown the best seeds for reaping the best health.

” M O M M Y ! I’M ALL STICKY AND THERE’S SAND IN MY SUIT ! ! “

The Benefits of Salt, Sun and Yes, Even Sand

Hollywood_Beach_panorama

Ah, those were the days! As a school aged child living in Florida I always looked forward to the weekends when, either Daddy would go fishing and maybe, just maybe, I’d be invited to go along, or better yet, it would be one of those glorious two days that we would go spend in a cottage at the beach. Sand castles, salt spray on my tongue – oh, and sand in my bathing suit.

Coquina Key. That was my favourite, but that story belongs on a different post.

DannyGreen_11%20Sanderling%20running%201Now mind, I couldn’t swim until I was 12 years old (kinda crazy considering I grew up in Florida) but I did love to chase the waves, the seagulls and the small, quick sanderlings…the tiny birds who also chased the waves, and then let the waves chase them back!

Sea shells and seaweed, broken pieces of coral, the occasional shark’s tooth and sand dollars…all found their way into my little pail to stink up the car on the way home and draw flies as they dried in the sun on the shelves of our front stoop.

Once in the water, I would follow Mama out as far as she would let me, then make my way back to shore, letting the salt water buoy me up while I used my hands to “walk” on the bottom. Invariably, the waves would wash not only me up onto the beach, but always gave me going away present in the form of a bathing suit full of sand. All in the wrong places.

So I’d go back in the water and shake…things…trying to rinse it out. Of course as short as I was, I couldn’t go too far out…only a few feet away from where I had collected all that sand to begin with so it didn’t do a whole heck of a lot of good.

crying-girl

I didn’t burn but one time each summer, but boy that one time was uncomfortable as all get out…not because it was a bad burn, but because the salt made me sticky and the residual sand I couldn’t get rid of was scratchy.

One year, I think I may have been 13 or so, I overheard some teenage girls talking about how good the sun, salt and sand was for your skin. Having just become a teen and worried about the possible onset of the dreaded  A C N E , I eavesdropped. Strange, the things you remember, because I never had a single problem with my skin until now, 47 years later.

hey-culligan-man-cartoonThe spokesman of the group mentioned things like “Hey Culligan Man!” (for those of you who remember, that was the jingle for the water softener company), exfoliation and Vitamin D.  I didn’t understand a thing she was talking about but, somehow, I never forgot.

But I got old.

One year I noticed that the skin on my legs and arms were just as flaky as a pie crust. Nothing I did helped. I’d stand under the shower until the hot water was used up, scrubbing everything with a loofah sponge and then rinse off, just knowing I’d scoured it all off. Of course, my towel would tell me otherwise when I’d dry myself.

And my hair? Oh my heck, the chlorine in the city water supply played havoc with it, conditioner or not, and seemed to be causing my skin to itch as well.

I was almost ashamed to put on a bathing suit…people can be cruel when you aren’t perfect, you know. So I just didn’t go to the beach at all for years, even though I loved it. When I finally did go, I hid at the water’s edge, covering up my legs with the wet sand. When it was time to go, I rubbed the sand off of my legs, rinsed myself off thoroughly under the public shower head (no sandy britches and hair for me!), wrapped up and went home.

When I eventually got home I re-rinsed from the neck down under the garden hose and went in to shower…and made the most amazing discovery! No flakes! Not only that, my hair was just as soft and shiny as it could be! I just couldn’t figure it out, until I remembered that incident at the beach as a teenager. And like all the old wives who tell tales, I spouted my experience to everyone I knew who was old and dried up like me.

There are so many bath products available these days: some diminish oily skin, some moisturize, some open the pores and some exfoliate (ah ha!) with tiny grains of everything from salt (again!) to apricot kernals.

4961048424_92dc1b87b8Florida sand is very fine, especially at the water’s edge. You wouldn’t be the first person to bury your legs in the sand at the beach, so while you’re at it, apply it to your arms and elbows. Then, as you rinse it off, use a little pressure. I wouldn’t advise scrubbing the tender skin of your face with beach sand though!

Water softener systems use salt to neutralize chemicals in the water and remove impurities. Now, if salt will soften city water, it can’t hurt your hair (no, I’m not saying pack your head in salt). Natural salt water has healing/antiseptic properties, you know, so it’s good for people who have skin problems like acne; as a desiccant it helps to dry up excess facial oils as well.

Vitamin D is a natural advantage to spending time in the sun. It’s not really a vitamin, by the way; it’s more like a “sun hormone”, but whatever it is, people who suffer from Winter Seasonal Affective Disorder are usually prescribed vitamin D supplements. Do the math.

istock_photo_of_sunburn_peelingOne more thing, and it’s not something I would advise doing on purpose, and nor would my cousin, Michael (now quite a famous doctor). As a teenager, he developed a bad case of acne. It was aggravated by some other skin condition or allergy, or something, that I was just too young to be interested in at the time.

His first full day in the summer sun always resulted in a bit of a sunburn…not bad, but just enough to where he would begin to peel…very thin layers…within a day or so. After that first peel, his skin would look almost healthy and it would last right up until it started turning cooler. Again, you don’t want to go getting a fierce sunburn on purpose, just to see if it would work on your flare ups, but the sun does have its advantages if you’re careful.

Okay. You’ve read everything I’ve written. Now the trick is to take it all with a grain of sea-salt, because nothing, I mean nothing, is cut and dried.

Getting a sunburn can be a dangerous thing, especially during certain times of the day…or even season. Scrubbing down indiscriminately with sand can cause minute tears in your skin and if the beach you’re visiting isn’t clean…the water is polluted or there are so many seagulls that you can’t walk in the sand without stepping in “bird squat”, as Mama used to call it…or it’s a “ghetto beach” where people pee, defecate or spit all over the place…then this is not the place to risk getting a bacterial infection from hell.

And although salt is generally good external medicine, occurrences like red tide, a vessel sinking off shore or an oil spill is going to give you contaminated water, antiseptic sea salt and all.

The only thing you want to hear by way of complaint at the beach is the kids crying, “MOMMY! I’M STICKY AND THERE’S SAND IN MY BATHING SUIT!!”

So play it safe. Use common sense. Test the waters before you leap in (pun intended!). And if you or your children or companions come up with a rash, abnormally burning eyes that can’t be explained by the salt in the water, nausea, light headedness or swelling in your extremeties, flag down the nearest life guard and call a doctor immediately.

Ain’t No Cure for the Summertime Blues?

SAD: Seasonal Affective Disorder Isn’t Only for Winter

For the past two years I’ve been able to control that “cabin fever” that usually comes with mid-winter, even in Florida. I know all about SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) and so tried to spend as much time outdoors in the sun as possible. But for some reason, even though I escaped SAD in the winter, I have been miserable come spring and on into summer.

Every year on the first morning that you can actually taste springtime, I will wake up, get dressed in gardening clothes and take a cup of coffee outside to sit and anticipate the relaxing activities of re-potting and planting for my annual “herb garden”. This ritual is one that I use to transition from the low activity levels of winter to increasingly higher levels, beginning in spring and reaching the “busy bee” peak for summer.

But this year…this year…

One morning on my way to work, there was just the least, residual hint of chill in the early air, the sun was beautifully hot and a chance breeze blew across my face and whispered, “Spring…” softly in my ear.  I smiled, planning in my mind how I would be spending the first day of the coming weekend.

Saturday rolled around. I had been having a hard time getting to sleep and an equally as difficult time trying to wake up.  Trying to get organized was next to impossible and I’d wind up with this excess of energy, running around like a chicken with it’s head cut off. It looked like today would be no different.

Regardless of waking up on the wrong side of the bed so to speak, I was determined to keep my date with the first “real” spring morning and took my coffee out to the patio table. My husband joined me a few minutes later with a cheery, “Good morning, sweetheart!”, for which he received a disgruntled frown and growl.

“Why are you so depressed? SPRING HAS SPRUNG!”

angry_old_woman

“Don’t make me come out there!”

I probably shouldn’t post my response on a “No Adult Content” blog.

You get the picture.

It was time to study the phenomenon called “Seasonal Affective Disorder”…in depth.

Nearly everyone knows what Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is. Common SAD occurs during late-autumn and winter and generally lets up come spring. Studies indicate that the primary culprit is lower levels of natural light that cause sufferers to become depressed, lethargic and generally out of sorts. The usual treatment includes light therapy and the use of Vitamin D supplements (because Vitamin D is absorbed through sunlight). The most common symptoms of SAD include:

  • depression
  • hopelessness
  • anxiety
  • weight gain
  • oversleeping
  • trouble concentrating

But not that everyone knows that there is an opposite to SAD.

Reverse Seasonal Affective Disorder occurs when the sun is brighter, most times beginning in early spring and lasting all the way through summer. the symptoms of Reverse SAD are similar to common SAD but there are definite exceptions. Depression and anxiety are common to both; the exceptions include:

  • insomnia
  • agitation (jitters)
  • weight loss
  • irritability
  • loss of appetite
  • increased libido (sex drive)

3204_398_583-scn-pineal-melatoninAs a little FYI for Dummies, light, or sunlight, follows a path from your retina to a group of cells in the hypothalamus. These cells send signals to the pineal gland, telling it how much or little melatonin it should produce (if you click on the image at right you can view a full sized illustration of how this process works). The maximum amount produced aids sleep while the least amount results in a depressed desire to sleep.

Along with other chemical signals, the schedule of production of melatonin falls into a type of pattern that can be altered or interrupted by outside stimuli, such as the change in the direction from which the sun shines, or its intensity, depending on the season. This pattern is what is referred to as Circadian Rhythm, or one’s Circadian Clock. When the stimuli are imposing enough to knock your Circadian rhythm off, your brain’s chemical balance is thrown off; too much melatonin at the wrong rate of production: Winter Seasonal Affective Disorder. Too little at the wrong rate/wrong time: Reverse Seasonal Affective Disorder.   Not strictly scientific, but close enough to get the idea, right?

Well, that’s about enough of the scientific explanation anyway. Suffice it to say that there is an explanation at all, and if I can understand the logic of it, then it must make sense!

Before you decide whether or not you are suffering from either Seasonal Affective Disorder or Reverse Seasonal Affective Disorder, keep track of the symptoms you are exhibiting.  Sometimes these symptoms can indicate something more serious, such a Bipolar Disorder. If you notice that you (or someone you know) have symptoms like extended periods of mood “highs” and “lows”, extreme enthusiasm which is out of context with a given situation or show signs of rapid thoughts or speech, you should consult a doctor immediately to consider making an appointment for testing.

Telemedicine At Its Most Basic Level…and Beyond!

I’ve been threatening to write this article about Telemedicine for months now because my kids keep asking me to explain what I do at my job. By the way, you will notice that the word “telemedicine” is a link almost every time it is used. These links lead to a plethora of websites about the subject…that’s how common-place it has become.

Our company, MD24/7 offers a few health care services via Telemedicine that complement a person’s existing insurance. In all actuality, the service on its own is of enormous value to people who, for whatever reason, don’t even have insurance coverage. It’s not at all complicated, but there are a number of points to be made in order for you to understand that this is a valid practice which has been around at least since the early 1960’s.

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As defined by the government office of  Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) “…Telehealth is the use of electronic information and telecommunications technologies to support long-distance clinical health care, patient and professional health-related education, public health and health administration. Technologies include videoconferencing, the internet, store-and-forward imaging, streaming media, and terrestrial and wireless communications…its office (HRSA’s) is part of the Office of Rural Health Policy, located within Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. HRSA’s mission is to assure quality health care for underserved, vulnerable, and special needs populations.”  (. (n.d.). HRSA Rural Health. In Telehealth. Retrieved May 4, 2013, from http://www.hrsa.gov/ruralhealth/about/telehealth/.)

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MD24/7 Mobile

MD24/7 Wheels!

There is a long history to the use of telemedicine. From our Armed Forces in combat, to NASA, Telemedicine has played a large part in remote health care access.

For instance, a soldier who has been injured in the field does not always have the luxury of being seen by a full-blown doctor, but any medic who tends to him does have the capability to consult with one at a distance. The medic will be able to communicate the injured’s vital signs, physical condition, extent of injuries, any allergies to medications and a personal overview of his condition to the doctor on call. That doctor will then be able to issue orders for any emergency treatment and order the soldier evacuated or simpy patched up, given a shot of antibiotics and sent on his way. If there is a doctor on hand and the injuries are extremely severe, he also will have the benefit of outside consultation.

During the race to the moon in 1961, astronaut Alan Shepard was one of the first to have his blood pressure monitored from over a 100,000 miles away! That technology led to the simple blood pressure monitors in use today. As a matter of fact, the medical technology which NASA used in their space program has led to the development of medical equipment such as Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) machines, medial imaging, Telerobotic surgery and, yes, even our “brand” of telemedicine.

The use of Telemedicine technology is vast! It’s not relegated to simply telephone consultations, although that was a very big part of our company in the beginning…and still is, if the truth be told. No, in this day and age of more and more technologically intricate communications, such as Smartphones, iPads and laptops and all the applications (apps) that can be downloaded, a doctor can now check your heart rate, blood pressure, respiration and even your blood oxygen level, look at your throat, visually guide you through a self exam and even give you an eye exam!

Now a big question about telemedicine regards the privace and security of someone’s medical information. Just as with any health care provider, security is of highest importance. Every tittle of medical data is stored within a database which is in strict compliance with HIPAA (The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996). Highly secure. No one gets in, nothing gets out without authorization.  (Note: in case you’re wondering about whether or not you can use it with Medicaid,  from the link in this paragraph scroll down to “Medical Codes”.)

*   *   *   *   *   *   *   *

Our service begins at the most basic, much like it has been used on the field of combat:  consultation with a doctor over the phone which, under appropriate circumstances, could greatly relieve the overcrowding and long waits for medical care in the emergency room. The relevence of this kind of telemedical service can be shown through a Blue Cross and Blue Shield study which was carried out in 2010 about the number of non-life threatening emergency visits which were made to the emergency room. Their tally revealed that somewhere around 60%-70% of those visits were basically unnecessary.

These were people who had no ongoing medical issues who had a cold, an earache, were suffering from the ‘flu, had a rash, a cough or had even gotten a “minor” cut or gash (minor meaning that, even though it may have been freely bleeding, pressure would have sufficed, the person had up to date tetanus boosters and no stiches were required).  No broken bones, ruptured spleens or gushing blood, no asthma, emphysema or other exacerbating conditions.

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Consider this: when you first enter the emergency room you must talk to a nurse, who takes your personal information. Eventually, after a  long  wait you’re handed off to another nurse who asks you what brought you to the emergency room. She weighs you, checks your temperature, checks your pulse…all this because you have a bad cold. Another hour or so goes by and the doctor finally comes into your room, reads the nurse’s chart, declares you have a cold and gives you instructions on how to care for yourself, maybe writes you a prescription for an antibiotic if the color of your nose mucous or sputum indicates a bacterial infection.

It’s a cold. And you went to the emergency room. 

The point is that if you or anyone in your family has a simple, uncomplicated health condition with no underlying issues, such as possible broken bones, asthma, glaucoma, cancer, lung or heart disease or any other such condition, and your illness doesn’t include serious life threatening issues, then there’s no reason you can’t call a doctor and get the same care you would get at an emergency room or clinic.

If you can answer the nurse’s and doctor’s questions in an emergency room, you can answer the same questions over the phone or, better yet, have a video consultation over Skype or any other computer app. Our teladocs boast a percentage of former military doctors, among others, but you can be well assured that each and every one of them are fully qualified, board certified physicians who are licensed to practice in your state.

1747588-ciscos-virtual-doctor-will-see-you-now-panoramic

In fact, Walgreen’s and other big name pharmacies (and big companies, like Cisco) have been using virtual clinics for some years now that provide just that type of health care consultation! With these services, as well as ours, you won’t have to wait for hours on end in some emergency room somewhere, sitting in those uncomfortable chairs, around a bunch of other sick people who don’t know how to cover their faces when they sneeze or cough. But once you call in to our service, or contact them online, everything happens usually within no more than a 15 minute to a half hour time frame. It’s almost like a house call.

Our doctors-on-demand can call in a prescription for you for antibiotics, inhalers, non-narcotic anti-inflammatories and many other prescription medications. The only thing they will not prescribe for you over the phone are controlled substances/narcotics, which is against the law in all states unless it is through face-to-face, physical consultations.

I’ve used our own telemedical service twice, now, for severe bronchitis. The first time I used it, I called in and talked to the nurse on call, she took my information (just like in a doctor’s office or ER), passed the info along to the doctor and he called me back before I even had a chance to sit down after hanging up with her! He called in a prescription for a good antibiotic and hubby went and got it  for me…total time: 15 minutes, including the wait at the pharmacy!

sick2The second time I used it I was really, really sick with bronchitis. I had “toughed it out” so I wouldn’t miss work (bad decision) and wound up to the point where I was having a really hard time breathing. Because this was so close on the heels of my last bout of bronchitis, the doctor called me in a prescription for what he explained was like “penicillin on steroids!”…big, bad-ass penicillin, in other words (pardon my french!!)!

That consultation took about 15 minutes this time because he wanted to make sure it wasn’t something more serious, but even so, from the first call to picking up the medicine was only a half hour…still ‘waaay less time than getting dressed, driving to the ER, waiting around and finally getting to see a doctor.

It took me a year to give it a try, but I can tell you, every time I feel that tightness starting anymore I’ll call them in a New York minute. Oh, and any family member who lives with you is covered under our service, no extra charge, one flat LOW rate. By the way…MD24/7 is nationwide except for a couple of states. I think those exceptions are listed on the MD24/7 website.

Incidentally, even United Health Care offers this type of service as a supplemental to their policies, as do other insurance companies like Kaiser Permanente.

You’ll never know what a convenience this type of service is if you don’t give it a try, even on a trial basis. It is “the face of the future” in medical/health care”, no doubt about it.

Anyway, guys…I told you I’d do an article explaining it in a way that would answer most of your questions! If you have any more, just email me or catch me on Facebook!

Just sayin’!

Invisible Illnesses…Who Will See?

Invisible Illness 1: Fibromyalgia

When she was in her 30’s it was laziness. When she entered her 40’s she was told she was suffering from “depression”, with a bit of bi-polar thrown in, because she was going through a mid-life crisis. In her mid-fifties it was “hypochondria” and now, in her sixties, it’s a combination of “brain fart” and “old age complaints”. No one ever believed that she didn’t want to sit around all day, that she really did hurt all over, all the time…real, bone deep pain. As time wore on, no one was really interested anymore anyway, because she was “just getting up in years” and the best they had to offer her was “why don’t you just put your feet up and take a nap?”

Some illnesses and diseases are nearly impossible to recognize

Research into conditions that used to be considered merely female trouble, mental dysfunction and dis-ease amongst the elderly have unearthed a great deal of knowledge about the why’s and the wherefore’s  of them. But for all the medical discoveries that have occurred even in the past half century, there are still questions about some “enemies” of human physiology that remain unanswered.

“Invisisible illnesses” fall into this category  because, though they are physiologically real,  their symptoms are not immediately discernable.

Fibromyalgia is one of them.

The simplest definition of fibromyalgia (FM) is that it is a common, chronic, generalized pain syndrome of unknow cause. Pain, tenderness at particular points of the body, fatigue, uneven sleep or disturbance of the sleep cycle, inability to concentrate and even chest pains are common symptoms of fibromyalgia. And although there is no evidence to suggest that having fibromyalgia will definitely result in psychiatric problems, a good estimate of those with the illness suffering from depression and/or anxiety runs around 35%, more or less. These symptoms are sometimes so severe as to be disabling.

Why can’t anyone else see the signs?

Along with symptoms which are impossible to measure, comes cessation of physical activity, withdrawing from social functions and even deep emotional distress when those closest to them cannot understand what is wrong.

Fibo2

There is an intense feeling of victimization and loss of control when a fibromyalgia patient comes to only expect what, to them, is ineffective treatment. They know first hand that their condition may be misdiagnosed many times before the condition is properly identified. Even then treatment cannot be directed to the root, as there are no absolute answers as to its origin. And so, one possible solution after another is attempted. In the meantime, everyday tasks take longer to accomplish and quality of life lessens more and more.

DON’T GIVE UP!

Studies show that, just as for arthritis, gentle exercise can help with pain management. Yoga, stretching, swimming…all have been shown to help with the discomfiture of fibromyalgia. Meditation and relaxation techniques, a sort of biorythmia practice, can also help to understand your pain threshold.

Studying your dietary habits will also help. Learn about what’s in the stuff that you put into your body, as some foods contain substances that may exacerbate your condition. Simply by following a more natural diet, though, has been known to help regulate your body’s chemical balance.

Pain is an indicator that something is wrong in your body and it is important to seek medical advice when you become aware that it’s become chronic. Because there are so many illnesses and diseases which share symptoms, testing for all the “usual suspects” will help to narrow down the illness with which you are suffering.

Educate yourself about your health. Seek medical advice if you think you may be suffering from fibromyalgia. Talk to a doctor about your concerns and don’t be afraid to go to your physician for testing.

Invisible Ilnesses can only be seen if you open your eyes and look.

Adapted from “Invisible Illnesses…Who Will See?” by PL Kirkby

Information is not advice!! If you suffer any of the symptoms mentioned above, don’t self-diagnose and always, ALWAYS, talk to a doctor before self medicating.

Health & Well Be-ing

My first semi-professional, freelance project was writing articles for the company for which I work, MD247. The company is all about telemedicine, which is proving itself to be very relevent to our future health care. There are so many aspects to the technology of Telemedicine, from simple consultations with a doctor on the phone or online, to using roving robotic assistants (I’m sure most of you have seen the commercial where a robot enables a sick, homebound child to participate in the classroom) and “smart phone” technology, new applications for which are being developed every day.

There are so many medical conditions out there that can be mistaken for simpler (or more serious) illnesses. It really  behooves us all to be willing to educate ourselves about our bodies, genetic propensities, the varying ways that certain medications may affect us and, most especially which of Nature’s “medicines” are valid and which are just being touted as a cure-all. When we really ponder the route that health care is going, it’s critical to be able to take care of ourselves to be as healthy as humanly possible. By the same token, we need to recognize when going to or consulting with an MD is preferable.

I find I enjoy doing the research it takes to write an interesting, informative article, though I must warn you, the only dry part of these works are the necessary technical or statistical facts that are important to the subject at hand. Of course, when I say “research”, I’m not referring to the in-depth, technical facts that a medical student must have in order to complete a thesis; rather, I’m just an average human being who happens to have a real curiosity about the causes and effects of illness on the body, and who has enough of a way with words to maybe shed a little understanding on the subject to others.

There is also the issue of the different disciplines or styles of medicine: Western, Eastern, Wholistic, Natureopathic and Natural. I’ve spent a great number of years studying the active principles contained in certain plant life. I would say that, sadly, much of what I learned was lost in the space of time that it takes to suffer a mini-stroke, but I much too much of an optimist for that pity party!  No, I will simply declare that, of all the years I would want to live over, the only ones I could honestly enjoy would be the ones I spent in the woods, the fields and the library…and learn it all again!