Atlanta docs make telemedicine house calls

New app lets you see doctor from home

atlanta docsHave a cold or a fever? Mess up your knee playing basketball? You don’t have to hassle with dragging yourself to your doctor’s office. Just grab your cellphone.

Doctor on Demand, an app that launched in December, lets you video chat with a doctor to discuss all that ails you. No germy waiting room. No long appointment times. You get fifteen minutes with a physician for $40. The service is available in twenty-four states including Georgia. Dunwoody internist Mary Nwoke, MD, is one of fifteen metro Atlanta physicians who are part of the DOD team.

How does it work?
Whenever a patient calls it comes right to my computer or cell phone. I put on my headset and have a conversation. It’s telemedicine at its best. The patient can opt out of video, but so far no one has. They see me. I see them.

Why did you become involved?
I’m honestly a firm believer of humanism in medicine. I’m very driven by anything or any approach out there that values autonomy, service, and empathy toward patients and this actually falls right in line with my values. When you put yourself in the role of a patient and think, “I need to see someone right now and I don’t want to wait,” this is a no-brainer. I like to share my talent, time, and resources with those in need. Doctor on Demand felt right. It’s very self-gratifying for me and I’m very pleased with it.

How often do you see patients this way versus in the office?
Telemedicine is just a small percentage of what I do. It’s a pretty new field. It’s innovative medicine. But it can easily become my main practice. I’m a working mom and appreciate the flexibility. I can be at home and still practice medicine!

What are the disadvantages, if any?
There’s only so much I can do through video. There are things I want to see and do and touch. Like check vital signs. There is a limit to what I can do and provide.

What are ideal situations for something like this?
“Oh my gosh, doctor, I need a refill for my blood pressure medicine. My doctor is out of town for the next couple weeks.” Or, “I have a cold. I have flu-like symptoms,” or something that requires antibiotics.

I would say nothing really acute. I did get a couple cases of patients, psych patients for instance, when they find out they think they can just call in and ask for narcotics. I have to put it out there, “No.”

Have you seen anything really unusual?
I think working in Atlanta and working at Grady, I’ve seen everything, honey. The only thing I’ve gotten really was a psych patient who was in an acute manic phase who was manic, shaky and said, “I need this, I need this now.”

Do you see this as the future of medicine or do you think it will take a while to catch on?
I definitely think this is the future of medicine. Listen, it is getting crazy in the hospitals. That’s why I said Doctor on Demand came at the right time. There is no way the ER should be at capacity like it is and the admission rate is crazy. In my head I’m wondering why didn’t we think of this before?