Imagine you are in an important work meeting when you get a call from school to say your child is sick or injured. You drop everything, go pick up your child and take them to the doctor who tells you it is nothing serious – and, really, your child could have stayed at school.
As busy working mothers, most of us do not need to imagine that scenario. We have lived it, probably several times at least.
Now imagine you get that call but instead of dropping everything, you open your KidsDocOnCall app and request an appointment. You have already added your little one’s childcare centre or school to your account so, as soon as a specialist paediatrician is available, you all jump onto a telehealth video conference. The paediatrician will be able to diagnose your child’s condition, and perhaps even inform you they are OK to stay at school – or not.
This is one of Venus Behbahani-Clark’s visions for KidsDocOnCall, which is a 24/7 Australia-wide telehealth service which launched last year, providing video medical consultations with senior emergency paediatric specialists to thousands of children, and their parents, in the comfort of their home.
It is the first such service offering 24/7 specialist paediatric health consults for urgent but non-life or limb threatening illness or injury, and usually saves busy parents a trip to (and long wait at) a hospital emergency department.
While it is currently only used directly by families, KidsDocOnCall co-founding chairwoman Venus is now on a mission to extend the service into education – believing the duty of care for children is on staff at childcare centres and schools, and not just parents, “at least during educational hours”.
Venus also sees KidsDocOnCall as a platform to educate parents and other carers about children’s health and wellbeing. The former actor and TV star aims to host “Oprah-style” discussions with panels of experts on KidsDocTV, which is due to launch later this year through a partnership she has formed with Xplor technologies.
The mother-of-three is passionate about spreading the word and reach of KidsDocOnCall around Australia, and the world.
“I have long been an advocate of telehealth, and that has become more widespread during Covid, so to have it available now on an app is amazing” she says. “With GP clinics and hospitals so busy, this technology needs to be a vital part of our health system. And having that access to proper medical advice keeps you off Dr Google and worrying all night!”
Parents can download the app to any compatible Apple or Android device by going to the KidsDocOnCall website. Once you register your account for all your children, then it’s just a simple matter of opening the app – or logging in online – and hitting a button to request a video consult. Families pay per consultation but can subscribe monthly for a reduced fee, and Medicare rebates apply for some consults.
All consultations are with experienced senior emergency paediatric specialists working across Australia – in other words, the types of doctors you would end up seeing if you went to a hospital emergency department.
If your child does need to go to hospital, the paediatrician will call ahead. If your child needs x-rays or blood tests, the paediatrician will send the referral straight to you, saving you a trip to the GP. Or if it’s a simple prescription, it too can be sent straight to your phone.
As mother to Giselle, 12, Sophia, 8, and Izak, 21 months, Mrs Behbahani-Clark knows first-hand how difficult and stressful it can be when a child is sick. She tells of the time Izak hit his head. A GP ruled out serious injury, but Izak was still in pain several days later, and the GP suggested they take him to hospital.
“I called KidsDocOnCall and the specialist very quickly was able to see that he had a lesion on his head – it was only the size of an ant but it had an infection under it. She prescribed antibiotics and sent the prescription straight to me and James went and picked it up. It was all done in 20 minutes. We probably would have waited in emergency about five hours for that.”
And, having been called out of an important court case when her daughter had abdominal pain which turned out to be gas, Mrs Behbahani-Clark is strongly advocating for KidsDocOnCall consults to be made available in childcare centres and schools. She says one or both parents would be able to link into the video consult from their offices – or, if they were unavailable, the paediatrician would have access to the child’s medical records via the app.
“I have had to pick my children up from school so many times when it turned out they would have been OK to stay at school. It just makes a lot of sense to have this available at school. Its efficient, it’s a specialised children’s service and it’s the way forward for our childcare and schools,” she says.
“There should be no compromise when it comes to our children’s health.”