Skype for ‘redneck telehealth’?

Kudos to Barbara Duck of The Medical Quack blog for coining a new term: “redneck telehealth.”

A friend of hers had an outbreak of gout while getting ready to board an overseas flight. “He had called his doctor who was not set up with any of the new telehealth programs and software that is just now becoming available so I said ‘get your doctor on Skype and put your foot up there for him to see,’” Duck explained in a post over the weekend. “Obviously this is not a perfect situation for either side for a real diagnosis, but as the old saying goes a picture is worth a 1000 words and that’s what this would do.”

Actually, I’ve heard that because a picture is worth 1,000 words, a video is worth 1 million words. Since laptops tend to have built-in webcams these days and a lot of 3G smartphones can transmit live, mobile video (hey, even some 2.5G phones can do so over a Wi-Fi connection, like you might find in say, an airport), why not fire up Skype or FaceTime or similar videoconferencing program and show your foot to your doctor? If you don’t like the term “redneck,” just call it a video call or an ad-hoc network.

Or are we expecting far too much by assuming that the doctor would one, be available on short notice, and two, voluntarily share his/her mobile number or Skype screen name with a patient?