Excited about Telemedicine Options

Not everyone has had a chance to tour the telemedicine pod at the Milam County Sheriff’s office. So I’ll try to give you the tour in words.

The pod contains everything necessary to handle most routine medical issues securely over the Internet. It’s also physically secure, being located in the Sheriff’s office. If you’re a Dr. Who fan, you can think of it like a Tardis. It’s a big blue box that takes you to another place, at least figuratively.

Lee and Meghan learn about the system.

You do have to touch the door handle to get into the office and the pod. But hand sanitizer is available at the door, so that shouldn’t be a problem. A big, flatscreen TV on the outside of the pod loops an infomercial about the service, so you can learn a bit before you step inside.

Once inside, the door locks behind you, so no-one can intrude on your session. The glass in the door even become opaque, so nobody can see inside. You can still get out, but they can’t get in. Another large flatscreen shows your vitals. The pod can sense your temperature, and infrared cameras look for infections. A scale in the floor weighs you, and there is a blood-pressure cuff by a fold-down chair, which can also be used just for sitting.

A friendly greeter appears on the screen. The young woman who greeted me showed up almost immediately after I pushed the start button. You can chicken out at any time, but I think it would be awkward to leave after such a friendly greeting. She took my relevant information: medical history, the reason for the visit, specific complaints—medical ones—and so on.

The greeter then passed me to a nurse or I think a physician’s assistant. While I was waiting, the TV played  an introduction to the medical pro who would handle my case, but I didn’t take notes on that. I was too busy being awed by all the high-tech gadgetry around me. After the bio clip finished, the PA greeted me. She was also very friendly and upbeat. 

The PA pushed a button on her end, and a stethoscope and high def camera dropped from the ceiling. She explained how she wanted me to position the stethoscope so she could listen to the front of my lungs. Even if she had wanted to, I’m not nearly limber enough to place the stethoscope on my back to listen to my lungs from behind. Next, she had me use the high def camera to look down my throat and into my ears. I could see what she saw on the big flatscreen, so we could talk about it once I had the camera out of my mouth.

Since this was just a tour, the session was over after she asked if I had any questions. I didn’t. But if I had needed a prescription, the pod will start by stocking 200 common drugs. As ProMed learns more about Cameron, the drug inventory will change to reflect our community’s needs.

When I stepped out of the pod, the door locked behind me, and the pod went through a self-cleaning cycle that should kill any germs or viral particles left behind. I’m told the whole process from stepping foot inside to the pod being ready for the next client averages about 15 minutes. That’s less time that I usually wait in a doctor’s office just to have my existence acknowledged. 

Now the pod can’t handle real emergencies. If you go in needing to have your arm glued back on, they’ll be able to call an ambulance to get you to a hospital but not much more. Same for heart attacks, strokes, concussions, …. 

But if you run out of blood pressure medicine on Friday and your doctor can’t see you to refill your scrip until one day next week, ProMed can probably get you enough drugs to keep you alive until you can see your regular doctor. If you have a sinus infection, they can get you a course of antibiotics to get it back under control. They want to establish relationships with the local medical providers, so they can tell them what happened (with your permission) and coordinate an appointment for you to see your regular doctor.

Is this pod the answer to all our medical needs in Milam County? No. But it’s a good start. When the urgent care center opens at the old hospital’s professional building next year, we’ll be a lot better off than we have been since Little River went out of business.

This article appeared in the August 20, 2020 edition of the Cameron Herald.