Even after the worst effects fade—air returns to squeezed lungs, the coughing stops, and the choking panic subsides—sufferers can be left physically shaken by a severe asthma attack for days.
The actual episode may last only minutes, but some experience difficulty walking and talking for days afterward. Many are left physically exhausted.
Such attacks can be so debilitating for young asthma patients that it keeps them out of school. In fact, around half the nation’s school-aged sufferers miss time at school each year because of the condition, a total that adds up to more than 13 million missed days annually.
The best way to treat asthma is to create and stick to an ongoing action plan, one carefully prepared with help from an expert in the field. In today’s digital world, with video conferencing available to the majority of Americans, it’s possible to seek help from the best asthma specialists in the country, no matter the physical distance between doctor and patient.
Is Telemedicine Effective?
Asthma affects 24 million Americans, including about 8% of school-aged children, and is present in every state in the Union. That means it’s just as likely to affect young people in remote communities far away from major medical centers as those living in metropolitan areas.
Luckily, a recent study has shown that you don’t need to live near a specialist treatment center to get the best of care. As it turns out, online telemedicine is just as effective as traditional in-room visits to the doctor’s office. In fact, it may even be better.
The study, published in the Annals of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology, found that patients who consulted expert allergists via video conferencing received the same level of treatment as those who attended in person. Patients involved in the study attended a local GP clinic instead and, with assistance from a nurse, undertook the physical aspects of a consultation using digital equipment, such as stethoscopes and otoscopes (the device with the little flashlight that is used to examine ears and noses).
Combined with the visual and audio capabilities of a video conferencing setup, this digital information was found to be enough for an expert to make a thorough diagnosis of young patients and to create a treatment plan for the future.
The “even better” conclusion drawn from the study was the fact parents and kids in remote areas could avoid expensive, time-consuming, and arduous long-distance travel in order to see a specialist. Such journeys need never be undertaken in the future either, as staying in touch with a physician can be as easy as turning on a smartphone.
Apps Keep Doctors Close at Hand
There are dozens of medical apps available that want to put you in touch with a doctor. But in ongoing cases, such as with young asthma sufferers, what you really want is an app that puts you in touch with your own doctor. There are a few of those worth mentioning.
PingMD is a free service that your doctor must invite you to join. It allows you to communicate quickly and privately through chat and by sharing messages, images, and data. The unique feature is your doctor can share the platform with other healthcare professionals to get second opinions, refer treatment, or access specialized services.
Another is Virtual Practice for Doctors. Again, your doctor will have to be already using this service and invite you to join, but once you do, it recreates all the note-keeping, clinical records, and patient information that would normally sit in a doctor’s filing cabinet, while also allowing direct video chat.
There’s also Microsoft HealthVault, a free service that’s been around forever which stores all of your medical data and lets you share regular updates with your doctor. There’s no video chatting here, but it’s a quick way for a doctor to look in on a patient’s progress over time.
A Virtual Patient/Doctor Relationship
By combining an initial remote diagnosis and planning consultation with regular smartphone check-ups, it’s possible for a doctor and a young patient to establish an ongoing relationship for years without ever being in the same room. Perhaps, after an initial consultation with a specialist, the ongoing virtual visits could be handled by a general physician, or even the local community clinic, with the knowledge that the expert eye can be called upon when needed via video conference.
The real benefit to this remote relationship is that young asthma sufferers—just like sufferers of other long-term ailments, both physical and psychological—and their parents can find comfort and peace of mind by knowing the best possible care is available to them, no matter where in the country they have to video call to find it.
Image Sources: Flickr CC User Hans Hansson and Eden, Janine, and Jim