Is a digital doctor right for your family?

KNOXVILLE (WATE) – Telemedicine has been around from years, but it seems to becoming a bit more mainstream, with new apps popping up all the time offering connections to real doctors through your phone or tablet. But is it the right choice for your family?

The Longmire family still has lots of questions, but their rural location might make them the perfect people to try out this technology.

“My dermatologist is in Oak Ridge, that’s about an hour, maybe longer. My OBGYN, because I’m pregnant, is Turkey Creek, so about an hour and a half,” said Autumn Longmire, 27, describing her drive times.

Longmire’s family of three, soon to be four, lives on a farm in Lafollette. With her growing family, she says the idea of telemedicine is more than appealing.

“That sounds great! That means less travel time, less exposure to hospitals, less gas money! All of that comes into play when you live far away from those medical services,” she said.

Like many people she’s not 100 percent sold that it’s the right choice for her family. Dr. Ryan Redman with East Tennessee Children’s Hospital says despite the conveniences for families, this isn’t always the right answer.

“Telemedicine is an exciting new field and I think in the future it will have a role in medical care, but the problem is with any new developing technology, its initial focus is pretty limited,” said Dr. Redman.

Dr. Redman says it is best used where a medial expert is on one end and there is still a medical professional with the patient at a satellite location. Schools use the technology that way as do mental health services. Now however, there are countless apps enticing you with the same concept just from the comfort of your home, with no medical professional with you.

This concerns Dr. Redman who says many things simply need to be seen in person.

“X-rays, tests for strep – you can not tell just by looking over Skype. You re still going to need a physical location to get tests done, so that at this point, will not able to replace any of that,” he said.

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