Medical Society of Delaware partners with telemedicine company
Panicking, the new mom called Dr. James Gill.
Her baby had an umbilical hernia, in which part of the intestine pokes out through the belly button. The mom wasn't sure if she should take the baby to the ER. Since she lived in Milford, it would be a trek for her to see her family physician in his Wilmington office.
Through a FaceTime-like app officially recommended by the Medical Society of Delaware, the mom showed Gill the hernia. If the hernia went down with a slight push of a finger, the baby would be fine, Gill said. So he instructed her on how to do it.
"It went in and there was nothing to worry about," he said.
Gill, president of Family Medicine at Greenhill, is one of the first Delaware doctors to use the telemedicine program named MEND. Telemedicine applications have become increasingly popular in the field, because doctors can treat patients in the comfort of their own homes. Those using the technology in Delaware find it's cost effective and a time-saver, especially if you live downstate.
Nemours/Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children has a telemedicine program, called CareConnect, in which more than 300 doctors in 27 specialties have access to see their patients via a smartphone or tablet.
Right now, about a dozen doctors in the First State are using MEND. Of these doctors using it, 2,500 visits have been seen through the app in the past year, said Mary Fenimore, spokeswoman for the medical society.
This is the first time the organization, which has about 1,000 members, has partnered with a telemedicine company, she said. The society has been approached by companies in the past and has turned several down after vetting the program.
Doctors pay the fees to use MEND, but Gill says it makes him feel more comfortable to use an app approved by the society.
Fenimore said the society wanted to make sure any telemedicine program maintained a "continuity of care," meaning that doctors would treat their own patients remotely rather than having a stranger who didn't know the patient offering advice and care. The doctors wanted an app that would be easy for different demographics to use, ranging from concerned new moms to struggling seniors, she said.
The Medical Society of Delaware was a strong supporter of the state's telemedicine expansion bill, which requires insurers to pay for these visits as they would for an in-person visit.
Gill admits he was once skeptical of certain telemedicine companies. While he always thought it could improve access, he worried about the kind of care his patients would receive through the apps. Many of the companies used a rotating cycle of doctors to treat patients, he said.
"The problem was that it was some random doctor," he said. "I didn't like that idea."
And although Gill sees some patients only through the app, he's found the contact has strengthened his relationships with those patients. Patients, especially parents, want to see their doctors as soon as possible. While that's not always possible, telemedicine can help make their lives a bit easier, he said.
Gill cited a recent example of a parent video-chatting with him about ringworm on her son's head. As her other two kids were getting ready for school in the background, Gill treated her 5-year-old son and wrote a prescription for medicine. The mom picked it up that morning, he said.
"I understand why patients like it," he said. "They want to do something. They'd rather do a video chat than be physically in an ER."
Contact Meredith Newman at (302) 324-2386 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at @merenewman.