If you know me, or know Ellie, or have ever attempted to make plans with either of us, you know that we spend a lot of time visiting various medical specialists. We visit some due to Ellie's corrected GI blockage and repaired heart defect. We visit others because the list of specialists that kids with Down syndrome visit in their first year of life is about a mile long - Ellie's eyes and ears and thyroid must be checked. And she needs bloodwork frequently. Add those appointments to the general well-baby checkups, immunizations (including the monthly Synagis), physical therapy, speech therapy, and developmental therapy, and you have one very busy baby girl.
I had the opportunity to review the services of 2nd.MD. The concept is fairly straightforward. Clients sign up for the website, type in key words or symptoms, and can schedule an appointment to speak with a physician. Looking through the physician list, I saw names of hospitals I recognized, which gave me confidence that the doctors would prove to be well-equipped to answer questions about my child's medical needs.
I logged onto the website and searched for pediatrics, GI, and genetics, and found a physician who seemed well suited to answer my questions. I clicked on "Dr. Isreal Kochin." He was unavailable, so I requested an appointment. I had some trouble at that point, because I couldn't seem to find available appointments, but an email to customer service was returned promptly and I'm fairly certain the problem was operator error on my part. I set up an appointment and was given the opportunity to upload medical records, summarize my concern, or even request medical records from the hospital to be sent to 2nd.MD. The video setup is easy if you can use Skype, and if you have the newest version of Adobe Flash Player. If (like me) you need to update Flash Player, this is the point at which you will email customer service again because you've been outsmarted by your computer. I never did get the service to work on my Mac, but I could have pursued a phone consult if that was my only computer.
The customer service response time was impressive. I believe in good customer service, and 2nd.MD delivers. My call was returned about three minutes after they opened. I successfully installed the Flash Player, and was off and running after I checked my microphone. Five minutes before appointment time, I logged into my 2nd.MD account and was sent to a virtual waiting room, or "Consult Lobby." Instead of reading outdated People magazines, I sat on my couch and finished a cup of coffee.
|(The virtual lobby also offered random facts and inspirational quotes.)|
The doctor logged on and I felt like I was using Skype for the first time, "Hey, I see that guy!" He had the goals of the appointment (a question about reflux) and we reviewed Ellie's history. Since I've listened to rounds for Ellie frequently, I was able to succinctly list her concerns and needs. "Eleanor is a full-term 8 month old baby girl diagnosed prenatally with...." (I felt like I was on Grey's Anatomy. But I didn't say that out loud, because that would be super geeky.) We had some connection issues with the microphone - Not sure if it was on my end or his, but the physician quickly obtained my number and called so we could continue the appointment.
|(Hello there, doc!)|
The doctor answered my questions, and proved to be quite knowledgeable about the specifics of Down syndrome. I'm not sure if that was based on his prior knowledge or research specifically for this appointment, but he was helpful. I'll give him extra points for exclaiming at Ellie's cuteness and using people-first language, calling Ellie a "baby with Down syndrome" instead of a "Downs baby." At the end of the consult, the Dr. Kochin ran through the expected disclaimer that an online consult does not take the place of an exam. He was able to answer my question and met the goal of the appointment.
The services of 2nd.MD aren't cheap, most appointments cost $150-200 for twenty minutes. However, for anyone who lives far away from a specialist, $200 may be a small price to pay for a consult, especially when factoring in time away from work and travel or hotel expenses. I would imagine the same is true for anyone paying out of pocket for specialists, or who is facing a lengthy wait for an appointment. I joked with a friend yesterday that I need a personal assistant to handle Ellie's appointment scheduling, and I cannot imagine if I lived hours from the nearest Children's hospital or Down syndrome clinic.
2nd.MD is on Facebook and Twitter. Their staff is amazingly helpful, and returned calls and emails far faster than most doctors I've contacted. I filled out a survey after my appointment and received a call within hours asking how they could improve the experience. Yes, I had some technical difficulties, but effective troubleshooting made the process overwhelmingly positive.
Thank you again to 2nd.MD for sponsoring this blog post. Please click here to learn more about 2nd.MD. I was selected for this sponsorship by the Clever Girls Collective. All opinions are my own. #Clever2ndMD #spon