FT had a history of cough of about five days duration. He also had fever and weakness. Reluctant to self-medicate, he called his doctor friend who asked a few questions and prescribed him paracetamol tablet, anti-malarial medication, and cough syrup. His complaints persisted. He later had to consult his friend in his hospital. Upon evaluation, a diagnosis of pneumonia was made. A different line of care commenced.
CO experienced abdominal pain only of a few hours duration. She called a medical personnel who recommended pain reliever. The pain worsened over two days period which necessitated her to visit a hospital. A diagnosis of ruptured ectopic pregnancy was made. She had emergency surgery to save her life…
The convenience of online shopping has over the years been extended to that of medical consultation via phone. The medical personnel is only equipped with history without the opportunity to physically examine the ill client. A few times, the diagnosis may be wrong because the full complements of patient examination are impossible via phone. The client risks being treated wrongly, the medical personnel risks a suit for medical negligence. The risk of a legal suit is a reason why many doctors decline telephone medical consultation. Some clients may ignorantly perceive this as an inhumane act by the doctor. It is better to make the right diagnosis at a later time although as soon as possible than an early but wrong diagnosis on phone. The place of medical advice via phone or other computers has not been discouraged.
Real time telephone consultation is quick, cheap, and convenient. It could cost a life, a professional career, or both. Technology however has developed to reduce the damage that could arise from telephone consultation with the development of video telemedicine machine. With this machine, the medical doctor has opportunity to evaluate the client from a remote location. The ill individual can be observed for cues of emergency. From this machine, some vital signs (blood pressure – pulse rate – and respiratory rate) can be obtained. The machine, however, may not be affordable domestically. The machines are usually stationed in health facilities where patients may visit to consult a doctor in another location via the internet.
Financially buoyant patients with medical conditions that warrant frequent medical evaluation may have these machines installed in their homes. With the aid of trained caregivers or medical assistants, the individual is connected to the appropriate gadget on the machine which can transmit clinical information to the doctor. The high cost of the machine makes it not readily accessible domestically.
Technological innovation may be ongoing to develop potable and cheaper machines with which remote medical evaluation may become readily accessible. Till then, due caution is recommended.
Dr Ademola Orolu is a Consultant Family Physician. He holds the Fellowship of The West African College of Physicians. He is also an Associate Fellow of The National Postgraduate Medical College of Nigeria. He is in active clinical practice. He is a writer, a patient advocate, and has a passion for health education. He is the chief editor of The Family Doctors. He can be contacted via firstname.lastname@example.org