If you're one of the millions of Americans in the "sandwich generation" -- caring for an aging or elderly parent while also raising young kids -- you may be concerned about your parent's ability to access medical care in your absence, especially if he or she lives in a rural area without much in the way of medical specialization. If a medical emergency were to happen, particularly a heart attack or stroke where quick action may be necessary to avoid permanent damage or death, how would your parent seek help? Fortunately, advances in medical technology have given doctors the tools to diagnose and even treat patients online. Read on to learn more about teleneurology and other patient care and evaluation services that may be available to your parent without requiring him or her to leave the house.
How do electronic patient care systems like teleneurology work?
The word teleneurology is literally "neurology at a distance" -- the ability of a neurologist to examine, diagnose, and treat a patient without ever physically laying a finger. Teleneurology has taken off in recent years, particularly when it comes to the diagnosis and treatment of strokes -- in many cases, having a neurologist evaluate stroke symptoms prior to medical treatment can minimize or even eliminate the need for potentially dangerous blood thinning medications or surgery.
This tele-medicine practice has expanded even outside the scope of neurology, with other specialties gaining the ability to diagnose patients and prescribe medications or other treatments simply by conversing with them on a video screen and asking them to perform specific diagnostic activities. This type of diagnosis can be critical in cases where the patient is unable to access in-person treatment or when time is otherwise of the essence.
Is tele-medicine a feasible option for your parent in an emergency?
In some cases, tele-medicine can be performed at a doctor's office. This is especially common in remote areas (like islands) where specialists may not be readily available but emergency treatment is still needed. As long as your parent is able to make his or her way to this office, he or she can often be treated without the necessity of ambulance transportation to a more well-equipped hospital.
If your parent already has an established relationship with one or more physicians who offer tele-medicine as an option, you may be able to provide your parent with 24/7 medical access simply by installing a web-enabled camera on his or her computer. This can relieve a least a portion of the physical and emotional load of caring for an elderly parent by ensuring that he or she (or you, if necessary) can solicit diagnoses and treatment quickly.