Santa Rosa, CA – Fire ripped over the hills in Santa Rosa recently as Dr. John Alchemy received the report at 2:30 a.m. on a Monday morning that he was one of the hundreds of people that needed to evacuate their homes immediately.
“The fire was a little bit like armageddon for people. Complete confusion, mayhem, chaos, people helping each other getting out of the neighborhoods.” Alchemy said, “This was in my neighborhood.”
Confused, disheveled, and in partial disbelief, Alchemy grabbed what he could —a bag of clothes, two cats, his family and the laptop. The traffic of hundreds of other escapees clogged the road, all driving away from what they didn’t have the space or time to stuff into their vehicles.
For several grueling hours, Dr. Alchemy removed his many hats as a physician, business owner, and software entrepreneur to become what so many in Sonoma and Napa counties have become: a survivor.
Amid the chaos, it was his responsibility to secure a temporary place to go with his family, establish what needs had to be met immediately, and respond to the influx of concerned friends and family asking if he was okay —the answer to that question being quite relative.
Dr. Alchemy had an appointment with a patient the next day, at his office, regarding a workers’ compensation injury, John’s area of medical expertise. The patient, a concrete worker, had injured his shoulder at work, resulting in lost wages and time off the job.
It just so happens that the day of the appointment, said injured worker was also evacuated from his home in Napa county due to the Tubb’s Fire. Shortly thereafter, his house had succumbed to the blaze.
So, already suffering from a reduced income due his work-related injuries to injuries, the worker was now homeless in an area known for a harsh economic climate.
It was critical that the worker be seen and his status reported, so that he could continue to get treatment and lost wages for the injury that he incurred at work. In order to rebuild what he had lost, the worker needs to return to work as soon as possible.
As luck would have it, Dr. Alchemy’s medical practice is telemedicine-enabled, which allows him to meet with patients online. Seemingly against all odds, Five hours after the worker had been evacuated on Tuesday, both displaced, Dr. Alchemy and his patient were still able to meet for their appointment, using the internet as the medical office.
Even with the worker feeling completely wiped out with only the clothes on his back, huddled with his wife, the appointment began right on time.
According to Alchemy, “We have a situation where everyone’s displaced, there are no clinics available anymore, but the business of injured workers can go on because of technology.”
Along with a growing number of medical professionals, Dr. Alchemy uses telemedicine. Telemedicine allows medical professionals to see patients through virtual visits in video chats and phone calls for online examinations, identical to brick and mortar office visits.
“Telemedicine is basically an old fashioned housecall on steroids,” Alchemy said.
Although they were both were displaced by the fire, thanks to telemedicine neither physician nor patient had to travel from where they were at a time when their families needed them the most.
According to Alchemy, “My clinic was also in an evacuation area. Other medical facilities like Kaiser and Sutter had to shut down. Their schedule is having a ripple effect of pushing appointments back 4 to 6 weeks.”
Typically, a follow up appointment for a workers’ compensation injury claim takes about 20 minutes. This consists of a series of questions about the injury itself, the effect the injury is having on the workers’ daily activities, and any other factors that may concern the employer’s insurance.
Telemedicine is quickly becoming more useful not only to doctors, but to patients who may be inconvenienced by arranging a visit to the doctor due to time constraints, the availability of specialists in the patient’s area, and in the case of this story, unforeseen catastrophe.
At this point, up to 100,000 people in Northern California have been displaced as the fire raged indiscriminately through neighborhoods that housed people working in all professions. There is an inherent risk of getting hurt at work in any job, regardless of the description, and it is likely that other currently injured workers have been displaced. Despite the hardships faced by many, systems like workers’ compensation continue to operate and indirectly affect those who are directly affected by disaster.
As for Dr. Alchemy, though a doctor needs his tools to operate, in this particular instance he was able to operate just fine with a tablet and an internet connection.
About Dr. John Alchemy
Dr. John Alchemy, MD, AAFP, QME, is the owner of Impairment Rating Specialist, founder of RateFast impairment rating software, and runs a brick and mortar doctors office in Santa Rosa, California. He has patients all over California who live in rural and populous areas alike.
“I’m able to see workers at any stage of their workday, meaning I see them at home, I’ve seen them in the office, I’ve seen policemen in police cars, I’ve seen patients in horse pasture, minimizing the impact of the visit of the employer and the employer’s productivity,” Alchemy Said.
Source: Rate Fast