I have never really paid any attention to healthcare system issues and inefficiencies in the system, until I became a parent.
It’s one thing to be in pain, but it is something totally different when it’s your child. The feeling of pain is somewhat magnified for you as a parent. You can’t physically feel their pain, but because of your strong parental-child bond, the empathy you feel for your child can be likened to it.
I have a one and half year old daughter, Amelie, who is a pretty happy, healthy and normal child. Over this past weekend, she broke out into hives due to some allergic reaction to something we could not identify. I would like to share the experience we had at the emergency room with you to show that there are two major inefficiencies in the system: #1) Ridiculously LONG wait times due to understaffing #2) Lack of utilization of commonly used technologies.
This past Friday, we went to Amelie’s PCP and she said it could be pollen, something she ate, or just a virus. She prescribed Benadryl and some other antihistamine. That evening, as my husband and I were ready to go to bed, my husband noticed that Amelie’s mouth was swollen and that the rest of her face was starting to swell up.
We called her pediatrician’s urgent care line and they told us to immediately go to the ER.
To save you the boring details of this visit, I will bullet point it (along with timeframes) below:
– Talked to triage nurse: 8 minutes
– Registration: 5 minutes
– Waiting to be taken into the ER: 20 minutes
– Nurse takes vitals and assess the problem: 10 minutes
– Wait for the doctor to see Amelie: 2 hours
– Doctor visit: 8 minutes
– Nurse comes back to fulfill doctor’s follow up orders: 10 minutes
– Nurse waits for doctor to finalize home care instructions: 15 minutes
– Total visit time: Approximately 3 hours
– Total time actually seen by a doctor or nurse: 28 minutes
In the two hours we waited for the doctor, I fell asleep with my toddler on the patient bed, while my poor husband tried to sleep sitting up with his head against the needle disposal box mounted against the wall. I am not quite sure why we waited for two hours for a doctor. I overheard that there was one doctor working the entire ER floor, and she was a slower one at that. In hindsight, there may have been much more urgent situations on the ER floor that the doctor had to attend to that night, however, this understaffing issue just reflects poorly on this particular hospital’s management.
The next day, the hives rash started to appear on Amelie’s face (the rash was not there before), again, around the time we were about to go to bed. Again, I phoned Amelie’s pediatric urgent care and asked the nurse if maybe we needed to take a different medicine (steroid, instead of an antihistamine). She had to contact the doctor, and the doctor said that she didn’t feel COMFORTABLE prescribing another medicine without having SEEN my daughter, so the nurse advised that I go back to the ER to be seen AGAIN. With a heavy heart full of dread to wait forever for eight minutes of care, my husband and I decided to wait out the situation, to see if my daughter would get any better before she got worse.
I then thought, “Why can’t I FaceTime or Skype with the doctor so that he/she can SEE my daughter?”
I thought of an app founded by one of the VDC companies, called FirstLine. This app allows someone like me to remotely consult with a primary care doctor via text, call or video chat. Unfortunately, they have not rolled out in Massachusetts- YET. We featured FirstLine in one of our previous posts, here.
I got a chance to chat briefly with the Founder of FirstLine, Bryan O’Connell. I shared my story with him and asked him about the obstacles he is facing in terms of getting his app up and running in MA. He noted that Massachusetts is a bit more regulated than California, and he would have to license every provider in MA before he could launch here.
To Bryan and the FirstLine team, if there is anything I can do to help you in reinventing healthcare here in Massachusetts, let me know. You have got one anxious, future customer, and I don’t think I am alone.