An onsite clinical paramedic would be there, to take both blood pressure and temperature, and then help a doctor based 20 miles away to complete the examination. No time off work to visit the surgery, avoiding the chance to catch whatever bug might be floating around there. Just a quick diagnosis, treatment prescribed, and a few minutes later, a happy (and relieved) team member was already back at their desk.
Now – and in the future.
If this is the here and now, then it’s only a short step to imagine that, within not too many years, this facility will be available in forward-thinking companies here in the UK. Because it’s not just the US, let’s take a trip to rural Africa. There, The Virtual Doctors are already using the internet to save lives.
The method, known as telemedicine, uses technology to offer treatment, or advice to local medical staff, in remote locations. This also uses live video conferencing, a radio or telephone link – or, often, a “store and forward” system of exchanging information and advice. Elsewhere in the United States, CBS News amongst others has reported virtual doctor programmes already at work. When a patient wants to ask a question, they log in and can order meds, receive test results, or take time to describe their symptoms.
The practice doctors check in at certain fixed times and deal with what’s waiting for them. The patient is then advised to check in to find the response. Again, no workplace time need be sacrificed! Some of these already include live computer webcam doctor-patient conversations. Moving this process forward, an experiment has already been conducted allowing people to talk to a virtual human doctor on a computer screen.
The “doctor” asked questions, both about the person and then medically, and was programmed to offer empathetic listening responses through facial expression and nodding. Interestingly, half of the subjects were told that the avatar was being operated by a human in another room; the remainder that it was completely computer-generated. The latter group were found to be more open and honest than the former!
Offering benefits to both employees and their employers.
Before too long, it’s easy to believe that many companies will have an onsite virtual facility. At some stage, immersive video technology will surely be brought to bear in this area. When companies currently consider how best to offer employee benefits or staff perks, many appreciate the worth of paying attention to individual well-being.
Companies using the initiatives mentioned earlier have already found that serious conditions have benefited from early diagnosis, ones where the individual probably would have held off on the hassle of an actual surgery visit. The terrific value offered in the way of corporate health insurance plans – delivering either employer or employee paid healthcare – by providers such as Paycare, already offer enduring and palpable benefits to both organisations and their employees.
There is little doubt that a mix of onsite and remote diagnostic processes will become part of such future activities. If you know of any examples of these or other innovative work-based medical initiatives, please do share them with us..