The founders of MedZed want to bring back pediatric house calls for sick kids. But the service they offer may seem a little different – a bit more high-tech, perhaps – than the Norman Rockwell-esque image of a doctor’s house call fixed in many minds.
Sandy Springs-based MedZed offers house calls over the Internet. A nurse drops by the sick child’s home and provides the “hands-on” portion of the exam at the direction of a doctor, who conducts the $150 exam over a Skype-like computer link.
“We call it bringing back the house call,” said Dr. Jeff Grossman of Sandy Springs, a co-founder of the company. “It’s a technology-enabled house call.”
MedZed co-founder Scott Schnell, who runs the business end of the company, says a big part of the company’s appeal comes from offering convenience to the parents of sick children and to the doctors making the home-based diagnoses.
“It’s all done in the comfort of your home,” Schnell said. “The doctor can be anywhere.”
And Dr. Timothy Horton says that works for him. “It’s telemedicine on steroids,” he said.
Horton, one of several pediatricians working for MedZed, says he’s done examinations of sick children in north Fulton and Cobb counties when he was miles away, in south Georgia. The company’s equipment, he said, allows him to examine his patients with high-resolution cameras, and to talk directly to them and their parents. “I actually don’t feel like it’s any different than being in my office,” he said.
Having a distant doctor drop by the house suits mother Shelley King, too. She’s had MedZed come to her home on two occasions when her 8-year-old son was ill. She calls herself “a huge fan” of the service.
“To me, this is the wave of the future,” she said. “Three years from now, everyone is going to want to know why this didn’t exist sooner.”
King likes it, she said, because she doesn’t have to break off from her work at home in order to take her son to see the doctor. “I don’t have to miss three hours of work time and a bunch of conference calls,” she said. “For that convenience alone, I just think it’s huge.”
Besides, her son enjoyed watching his examination on a computer screen. “The kids love that, to be able to see,” she said. “They’re more engaged… How often do you get to see the inside of your body? That’s very cool.”
Grossman, who specializes in non-operative spinal medicine, developed the idea for MedZed when he was doing telemedicine in his own practice.
He thought it would work well in pediatrics. Allowing a young patient to stay at home for an exam, he said, meant he or she often felt more comfortable and could avoid the potential contagions other children brought to the doctor’s office. And, he said, “in a strange way, it’s a more intimate environment” than the office
“It allows a better patient experience,” Grossman said. “Convenience is a huge factor and the patient doesn’t have to be around other germ-ridden, sick kids.”
Horton agrees. “I got tired of seeing a kid for a cold and two weeks later seeing him again for something he got from sitting in my office,” he said.
Schnell said the name of the company came from combining the “med” from “medical” and the “Zed” from “the legend of Dr. Zed,” a neighborhood doctor who made house calls.
MedZed now employs five doctors and eight nurses, Schnell said. It offers house calls from 5 to 9 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, from 1 to 5 p.m. on Saturdays, and from 3 to 8 p.m. on Sundays. Schnell said the company hopes to partner with other physicians.
Horton said he saw the advantage of doing high-tech house calls recently when he examined a child whose mother was ill. Her compromised immune system, he said, prevented her from accompanying her child to the hospital or a doctor’s office. Examining the child at her home, Horton said, meant she could take part.
“That’s what good medicine is all about,” he said. “It’s not just taking care of that child in front of us. It’s taking care of the whole family.”