Sometimes Medicine Works

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We’re lucky in Canada to have universal healthcare to at least not worry about the potential financial devastation that could come from having to undergo a lifesaving treatment or the personal burden of following preventative care. I do sometimes take this for granted until I need to use it. However, it still seems so puzzling to me the huge gaps for efficiency.

Having a family with two young children in the middle of flu season, I’ve seen some things work really well.

Telehealth. This is a free Ontario-wide service for speaking with a nurse. It’s great for those on grey zone questions. Ours: does a single measurement of 41.2°C temperature warrant a trip to the ER? We called, left our question, and about 100 minutes later received a call from the nurse. About 90 minutes after that, we were in the ER. I loved the call back vs waiting on hold. So much less aggravating. Call centres should adopt this approach more.

In home doctor visit. Thanks to a very old fashion way of getting info to me… direct mail ad… I learned that this service was available. The hold time was about 2 minutes when I called the service and the doctor came with a nurse on a Sunday morning within 4.5 hours. What a huge time and aggravation savings compared to finding the one open clinic nearby and waiting with a sick kid for two hours.

The ER visit… at the right time and place. While we had to visit the ER, we had some experience and picked the right one. Despite it being 11 PM on a Saturday night, we were in and out in an hour including triage nurse, admission, and seeing the physician. This was less time than it would take to go to a doctor’s appointment that was scheduled.

And some things that were more technologically advanced were not helpful…

GetMaple. This seemed amazing… Maple is a pay service to have a live conversation with an Ontario physician within 10 minutes. However, it never happened. I got a note after 10 minutes saying that the symptoms I mentioned needed an in-person exam and I should see our family doctor or a walk in clinic. There was no room for a follow up question like “Should I go to the ER”, which is what I was really after.

Online info. Even with Google Knowledge Graph style results, it was still very difficult to get an answer that converged on an action.

Google Maps. “What walk in clinics are open now and nearby?” Information is buried on circa 2003 style websites and often wrong . “We close for walk ins at 3 PM” or “there are no walk ins on Tuesday after 1 PM.” This would be a great project for Google Duplex to call and collect information.

In the end, despite a furious fever, it was just a flu but half the treatment is getting peace of mind and not being negligent to loved ones.

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