Thank you to 2nd.MD for providing me with a $200 stipend to test-drive this revolutionary online medical service.
When I saw that Clever Girls Collective had a sponsored post opportunity that involved trying out a revolutionary new way to get in touch with a top specialist from home, I was really excited, for obvious reasons. I mean hello, every single person in my household has complex medical issues necessitating entire TEAMS of specialists, who aren't always all that available for questions that aren't life-or-death. When I found out I was selected for this opportunity I thought long and hard about which specialty to consult with. I don't think there's any specialty we HAVEN'T had dealings with, after all, so I was a little bewildered in the face of SO. MANY. OPTIONS. And the combination of medicine and social media was RIGHT UP MY ALLEY, OH MAH GAH.
I finally decided to narrow it down by ruling out specialties we were already happy with (like I hate the eye doctor LIKE POISON, but that said mine is one of the best in the nation so I don't really need a second opinion there), ones with a heavy hands-on clinical aspect (for example, to effectively address specifics of the connective tissue disease my children and I all have, a geneticist would want to move our joints around, feel our skin, have us do various physical things not easily captured on webcam...), and specialties where prescriptions are heavily involved (for example, I need to get back on ADD meds but while a psychiatrist-inside-the-computer might be able to make recommendations for specific drugs, they obviously can't prescribe that way and I don't know how well it would go over if I went to see MY psychiatrist and told him I wanted to try X controlled substance because Dr. Y from-the-innernet told me I should...).
I finally decided I wanted to go with a sports medicine doc; many of the sports medicine specialists on 2nd.MD have SUPER-impressive credentials and I'm not realistically going to shell out a co-payment and day off to see one on my own. Plus the reason I wanted to see one (namely to get some tips on exercises, specific taping techniques/compression garments, etc. that might help me avoid the recurrent injuries I am so prone to when I run) was something I felt could be effectively addressed in a videoconference. Yay!
My enthusiasm started to fizzle around the time the second specialist declined to take me on. I get why they have this option; obviously not everyone is very medically savvy and some people might select specialties that are wildly inappropriate or doctors within a specialty who don't often handle their particular issue, but...any able-bodied person can run and women in particular are prone to stress fractures. I didn't feel like mine was such a crazy concern. Finally I found a doctor who was willing to talk to me: WHOO!
Unfortunately he didn't show up for our "appointment." Booo...here is where I have to say that 2nd.MD's customer service is AMAZING. If a doctor doesn't show up for your appointment (which given that doctors have, um, emergencies and stuff, isn't such a far-fetched idea) you automatically get a refund from 2nd.MD, but what the fine print doesn't say is that when that happens they go ABOVE AND BEYOND to make sure you don't give up on the service itself. The rep's exact words when I contacted him, frantic, at COB on a Friday when my post was due no later than TODAY, were "you go and have a good weekend and let me work some magic."
I won't lie. Initially I was not impressed with the magic. Because it took the form of a rush-appointment with...drumroll...a rheumatologist. Yeah, 2nd.MD's sports docs unanimously wanted nothing to do with me because of the rare and freaky connective tissue thing, and I was...pretty offended, honestly. Because what the heck was a rheumatologist going to know about this (I mean yeah, technically I have an autoimmune disease that falls under their specialty AS WELL, but it has no impact on my running and all symptoms that have majorly impacted my life have been effectively addressed through drugs and surgery)?
At this point, I think if I'd been a regular paying customer I might've given up on 2nd.MD. Since I wasn't actually paying for the service out of my own pocket, though (and uh, wanted the income from this sponsored post opportunity), I decided I had nothing to lose by going into my appointment with Dr. Kirkwood Johnston with an open mind.
Y'all, I am so glad I did that.
Dr. Johnston isn't just a rheumatologist, he's also an avid runner and something of a rare disease afficionado. Instead of one of the two usual reactions medical professionals tend to have when I tell them about my specific connective tissue disease (either "umm...how do you spell that? I've never heard of it!" or "HOLY CRAP YOU POOR THING, YOU SHOULD TALK TO A GENETICIST OR PRETTY MUCH ANYONE WHO ISN'T ME!"), Dr. Johnston said "tell me about your [insert condition name here; it's rare enough to be potentially identifying so I'm not putting it up on my personal blog], what subtype is it and how severely affected are you?" He went on to explain, laughing, after I told him how the sports docs had all shied away from seeing me, that a lot of the time people's reaction to rare stuff that can impact mobility is one of "CALL A RHEUMATOLOGIST!" and this was actually right up his alley.
I'd love to show you a screenshot of my consultation with Dr. Johnston, but apparently Awesome Screenshot and the 2nd.MD chat interface don't play well together because when I took one I ended up with this:
So you'll kind of have to use your imaginations a little. Here is what Dr. Johnston looks like. And here is what I looked like during our consultation, modeling my anti-asthma attack running mask for running in cold weather (taken with my iPhone during the actual consultation, which you can sort of see in the reflection off my glasses) (last time I EVER don't shell out for the anti-glare coating on lenses, incidentally):
Figure Two: You didn't really think I'd out myself for this post, did you? Also? Funny story: I thought Dr. Johnston would be in on the whole "you are talking to a blogger who is being paid to review your services" angle, because COME ON, but apparently he was NOT in on the joke and when I said, apropos nothing, that I blogged anonymously and whipped out the mask in the middle of a chat about joint and muscle health I think the poor guy thought he was about to become an unwitting participant in some kind of fetish porn. But he was a good sport about it!
So, my actual, honest-to-goodness opinion is that this is an amazing service. I got some truly excellent advice on how to minimize the risk of further injury (although Dr. Johnston was careful to stress that this would only REDUCE the risk, because "as you know you're going to hurt yourself a lot no matter WHAT you do," which shows he knows the condition I have pretty well, actually), from an unexpected source, and aside from the technology failing me when it came to the screen shot (AHEM, AWESOME SCREENSHOT) I have no complaints at all despite the false start. I was actually really impressed, not least in that after I caused a super-awkward moment by whipping out that mask it was SUPER-easy to exit the appointment with the remaining shreds of my dignity. Because it's easy to trip over your own feet on the way out a physical door (um, not that *I* ever did that while beating a hasty retreat from a horrified medical professional, hoooo no), but even I can't manage to hurt myself clicking the x at the top right of a screen.
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