If I 'Toe'd' You Once, My Tale of Telemedicine

October 30, 2015

Yes, that is a picture of a bandaged up right toe. I had a very similar situation happen to me recently.  HIPAA (and general respect for your gastrointestinal constitution) prevents me from going into the goary details of what happened but just trust that it wasn't pretty.  

 

Okay fine, it was an ingrown toenail and I had it removed last week.  Just so you know, like a true insurance professional, the injury did not keep me from hobbling into a happy hour I had scheduled that afternoon.  

 

Just so you also know, like a true idiot, the injury did not keep me from playing middle-aged-white-dude basketball the following two mornings.  

 

Was it stupid to play basketball?  Eh. The doc told me after about 12 hours I'd be able to resume activity so that is what I did.  

 

I had it removed on a Tuesday.  The Saturday following I coached Wolfpack Soccer (5th/6th grade Rockford community ed--boys and girls. . . it's a big deal).  When I got home from our drubbing at the hands of what I thought to be Rockford's Junior Varsity team I noticed a clear and persistent pain in my toe.  When I removed my sock, I noticed what I thought to be red line streaking from the procedure site under the other side of the toenail and possibly (up for interpretation) up my toe and into my foot (probably exaggeration).  

 

My lovely wife Janelle happened to walk in the room as I was analyzing this situation.  "That doesn't look so good" she told me.  

 

My reponse, "It's fine."  

 

Her response, "What did you do this week?  Did you play basketball?" 

 

My response, "Of course not."  

 

"Well that looks infected.  I know you played basketball."  

 

"I may have played basketball and I'm not sure it's infected.  I think I'm going to take the dog for a run."  

 

You can imagine how this conversation ended. Let's just say she (I mean we) decided I wasn't going for a run and I would give Teladoc a call to see what I could do.  

 

Teladoc has a handy web app that allows you to schedule the consultation and during the process it allows you to take a picture of an infected site.  I've used the app many times and it has always worked.  For some reason this time the picture functionality just wouldn't work.  So even though I told my wife it was fine, that my toe didn't hurt and that the red line was just her and my imagination, secretly I really was kicking myself for playing basketball and genuinely concerned I caught some kind of flesh eating bacteria from the notoriously disgusting gym showers or even worse, from inside my two year old Lebron James basketball sneakers (I never say that word but it seems to work here).  

 

So I requested the consultation sans the picture.  I pressed the button, agreed to all the terms and three minutes later my phone rang.  It was Dr. Pittel.  Not sure where Dr. Pittel was located but I know from being an expert in Teladoc he has to be in Michigan because I told the app I would probably need medication.  Dr. Pittel was cool.  I told him what had happened, I told him about the line and about the extreme pain I was in (mild exaggeration).  He told me to mark the line with a marker and he would prescribe some antibiotics at the Walgreens I had prerecorded as my pharmacy.  


I was in the clear.  We had dinner scheduled at my Grandma Siciliano's in a few hours from then so we packed all the kids (and the dog) and picked up the script on the way to Grandma's.  I popped one with some water on the way to her house.  All was supposed to be fine and good.  And it was all good except for one detail. Side effects.  This script is pretty hard core and it turned my stomach into knots.  Long story short I couldn't enjoy all the delicious Italian-Grandma fare she had planned for me and my family!  

 

I ended up having to take one pill four times a day and I did that for the next two days.  Dr. Pittel prescriped a strong antibiotic given the fact I described a red line going up my foot.  So for two more days I gutted (pun intended) out the drug while looking forward to my Tuesday follow up with the foot doctor who removed my toenail.  

 

When I finally sat down at his office, I told his nurse the tale of my woes.  She looked at the foot, looked at me and simply said.  "Your foot's not infected.  It's just irritated from the surgery."  How could that be?  I was in so much pain! I was close to death! 

 

"What drug are you on?"  

 

"I would tell you the drug but I forgot the name now. Some antibiotic."  

 

"Oh, I'm sure the doctor will take you off that."  

 

And sure enough, the doc came in, took a look at my toe and reminded me a little redness was common when you have A TOENAIL REMOVED!  

 

Makes sense.  I guess.  

 

He took me off the meds, sent me on my way and told me I could keep playing basketball.  He did tell me it might hurt a little but to suck it up and act like a man (well maybe not the last part).  

 

So why am I telling you all this?  It's not to disuade you from selling Teladoc.  In fact I have had some awesome experiences and our clients have had some awesome experiences.  It's really so you can educate your clients on the pitfalls that could occur within this system or any medical system.  

 

The bottom line is they are not perfect.  I made some key errors.  I pushed it too hard when I should have given myself some rest.  I called Teladoc when I should have followed up with my docotor.  But there were some functionality problems with Teladoc that shouldnt' be overlooked and one could argue Dr. Pittel may have prescribed medication too quickly.  Maybe he should have sent me in to get checked out.  

 

Opponents of telemedicine will tell you stories like this one represent the dangers of using telemedicine specifically because antibiotics are over-prescribed.   And I can't discount that fact especially given my situation.  However I can tell you there have been other times when I've called I thought for sure I would have antibiotics and the docs have turned me away.  

 

I still very much believe in the system and in the product.  I would stress that like any other health plan, consumers need to be educated and use common sense.    

 

I've read and reread this blog post to see how I could transition to a sales opportunity.  I'm honeslty not sure if it's possbile.  But, if you'd like to learn more about Teladoc and how we distribute it, please let me know or visit this page on our website.  

 

Dominic

 

 

 

 

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