As you have probably noticed, if you have read my blog, I am pretty passionate about health technology. People may ask the question, why? It is a bit of a random topic, so why do I keep going on about how amazing it is? I am passionate because I am surrounded by it at work and can see how it can help people in many ways: it can improve your health, give you better access to healthcare or motivate you to make a change in how you live your life. But allow me to give you a personal example that shows how simple technology can really save lives.
I have a family member who is ill. Really ill. Let’s call him Tom. He is 40 years old, has two young boys and has been diagnosed with a brain tumour. At the start of the year, he had a stroke because of the tumour and then spent the next 7 months in the intensive care unit recovering from it. He was unable to talk as he was breathing through a tube in his neck (called a tracheostomy). In spite of the stroke, his tumour was actually stable and not growing, so we got him home. We wanted to get him stronger with rehabilitation and get the tube in his neck out, to get him talking again. Unfortunately he was only granted carers to look after him for part of the day, so the rest of the care was needed to be done by the family. Because of this I set up Tom’s wife, let’s call her Emma, with some basic tech: a blood pressure machine, thermometer and an oxygen monitor and said any problems, call me.
One Saturday night, it was 11 o’clock and I got a message from Emma. It was a video of Tom in his bed looking pale and sweaty and breathing very fast. Attached to the video was a note, “Is he ok? Trying to get a doctor, but he won’t be here for at least 4 hours”. I quickly asked her if she could use the blood pressure machine, thermometer and oxygen monitor and let me know the numbers.
Blood pressure 109/73, pulse 120, oxygen saturation 84%, temperature 40 degrees.
Ok, you budding doctors, what do you think? Can this wait 4 hours or not? With an oxygen level of 84%, Tom would not last 4 minutes let alone 4 hours. My response was to call an ambulance, NOW! She did and Tom was taken to hospital and given treatment for a chest infection. He recovered and returned home to his family within 3 days to continue his rehab.
Those who work in health know problems like this always happen late at night, on the weekends when no doctors are available. Now you might say Emma was lucky because she had you to contact if there was a problem. But with the rise of the online doctor, everyone has access to a doctor where and when they need it. In addition, with some objective information in the form of a temperature, blood pressure, pulse rate and oxygen level, the correct decision can be made.
There was no need to see him face to face to work out what needed to be done. He needed to go to hospital straight away. Without this information, we would have been guessing what the problem was and probably would have waited 4 hours for a doctor. Had we done that Tom would not have been here today. We are fully aware that he does not have much time with us but because of a bit of simple tech, his two boys get to spend a bit more time with their father, who ultimately will not see them grow up. Whilst this is an extreme example, it shows you why everyone needs a bit of tech in their lives. It really can be the difference between life and death.
Blog post written by Dr Khurram Akhter.
Khurram is an experienced primary care physician and a thought leader
in the field of digital health.
Disclaimer: This text does not serve as medical advice and if you have any questions, seek advice from your doctor.