How Telehealth Helps Asthma and Allergy Patients
Telemedicine works for children with asthma – and parents like the convenience. That’s the conclusion of a study published in the Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology that tested the effectiveness of telemedicine using real-time video conferencing with an allergist and digital exam equipment.
The study did not involve home-based telemedicine – the patient visited a nearby clinic, staffed by a healthcare professional, and connected by computer with an allergist in a different location.
Patients in the study who used telemedicine showed the same level of asthma control improvement as those who used an in-person visit. “In addition, there were high levels of satisfaction by the kids and their parents regarding long-distance care,” says Jay Portnoy, MD, lead author of the study and allergist at Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City.
Telemedicine offers high-level care without long drives – particularly for those living in areas without local allergists – or long waits in the doctor’s office.
“We were encouraged,” says allergist and study author Chitra Dinakar, MD, also of Children’s Mercy Hospital, “because sometimes those with the greatest need for an asthma specialist live in underserved areas such as rural or inner-city communities where allergists aren’t always available. The study shows these kids can get effective care from a specialist, even if they don’t happen to live close to where an allergist practices.”
Telemedicine organizations such as Doctor On Demand offer patients immediate, anytime access to board-certified physicians through video visits, which are increasingly covered by health insurance.
“Telemedicine improves access to care,” says Tania Elliott, MD, medical director of Doctor On Demand. “We already know it takes four hours out of someone’s day to go to the doctor, so that leads to missed visits and missed visits lead to poor compliance. Telemedicine is a way to break that barrier.”
On-demand visits allow patients to teleconference with a doctor anytime. They can get prescriptions refilled, review an Asthma or Anaphylaxis Action Plan, or receive instruction on how to correctly use a bronchodilator inhaler or epinephrine auto-injector – all from home. Learn more at DoctorOnDemand.com.
Another benefit of telemedicine, says Dr. Elliott, is the ability to host a walk-through video tour of your home to identify potential asthma and allergy triggers, both allergic and non-allergic.
“Take a tour of your home with your doctor and have them point out what might be causing symptoms,” Dr. Elliott says. “For example, maybe you have a huge upholstered tapestry hanging in the bedroom. The allergist could point out it could have dust mites. That’s something that may not have registered when talking with your doctor in the office – and the doctor may not have thought to ask about it.”
The tours are particularly beneficial for the newly diagnosed, Dr. Elliott notes.
“For someone newly diagnosed with food allergy, they’re questioning, ‘How am I going to make my pantry food-allergen free?’ It can be really challenging. So the parent and doctor go through food labels and talk through it so the parent can know they’re making the right decision.”