Recently I have been dealing with a nagging case of lower back pain. This is not a normal occurrence for me; while I’m a quasi-regular at my local chiropractor, it’s usually for the normal building up of neck and shoulder tension with a side of jaw misalignment. But last week my lower back started aching in a manner I have experienced once before.
About five months ago, I had the same problem. After a week or so of just dealing with it, I finally had to see a doctor. Naturally, no appointments were available, so I wouldn’t get to do the standard waiting area holding pattern, escort to the exam room, and wait in solitary confinement. Instead, I had to visit an urgent care clinic, along with the cold and flu-like symptoms of my fellow patients-in-waiting. Ten minutes of doctor face-time later, I was paying my bill and on my way to the pharmacy for a prescription steroid that did the trick over the next few days. Sure, it was an hour and $150 spent, but I got what I needed: sweet relief.
With that experience in my head, I knew what last week’s return of my lower back pain likely meant: a return trip to the doctor’s office for a prescription. Although I hadn’t suffered an acute injury or anything I could think of to explain the pain’s return, I’m sure my Sunday afternoon growth exercise has something to do with it.
Then Thursday night happened.
Thursday night is Trash Night on our block, when the week’s garbage and recycling go to the curb for an early Friday morning removal. Last Thursday was also the night winter made a surprise April re-appearance, as the evening saw the arrival of frozen sleet and yes, even snow. It was into this weather that I began guiding our more-full-than-usual garbage can down the driveway. About halfway down the sloping concrete, the weight of the trash can began to shift, causing it to pitch sideways. As I held on to the single handle and the trash can balanced precariously on one single wheel, my only conscious thought was the wrong one. Instead of remembering my aching back, my thought was “I am NOT picking up spilled trash on the driveway in this weather!” Before a smarter thought could take shape, I instinctively grabbed the trash can and used my body to counterbalance its twisting, falling trajectory. After a second of a perfectly still balance of two opposing forces, I finally won the tug of war and got the trash can upright again. Of course, the fulcrum for this saving maneuver was my lower back.
Naturally, neither my family doctor nor my chiropractor had any appointments available for the following day, so my options were three:
- Wait until Monday to see one of my doctors;
- Go back to the urgent care clinic; or
- Give one of the several live doctor consultation / telemedicine apps a try.
I’ll never visit a doctor’s office/urgent care clinic for a token visit to get a simple prescription ever again.
Using the Dr. On Demand app on my phone, I was connected via video call to a small family medical practice from Decatur, AL. This occurred from the comfort of me lying on my back on my basement floor within 30 seconds of creating an account (which required inputting standard bio, med history, allergies, and credit card info). In a moment of serendipity, the doctor I connected with shared familiar Oklahoma roots, with an undergraduate degree from Oral Roberts University in Tulsa and medical degree from Oklahoma State University.
In less than 11 minutes, my exam was complete, including a discussion of my symptoms, visual exam of my range of motion, and description of the medication she was prescribing. Minutes after the appointment ended, I received an email with personalized notes from my visit, prescription instructions, and even a link to some back exercises for once the inflammation subsides. No more failing to remember that one thing the Doctor told you to remember!
Total cost: $40 — roughly half the normal cost of a doctor appointment and a fourth the cost of an urgent care visit.
This little episode is just another vivid example of Reality, like it or not: the world is radically changing, and the sometimes dizzying pace of change can be harnessed to make astounding improvements in life and business if one is willing to let go of old conventions and be creative. To the old way of thinking, this just isn’t the way medicine should be done. Yet, in the same way Uber and Lyft are upending the taxi industry by providing an infinitely better experience for the end users, it is likely that telemedicine apps have radically changed how routine medical care is delivered for the better. More than just tech changes, these cultural and sociological changes have effects that will be far reaching and are only beginning to be understood, impacting organizational management principles as much as taxi service and securing a prescription for simple lower back pain … or even fighting the world’s next viral fear.