A year ago, anybody who wanted an appointment with me needed to visit my office in San Rafael, California. Plenty of seriously-motivated people from the greater Bay Area made the trek that could take a whole day back and forth in bad traffic. Others from further beyond who had flown to San Francisco for a business trip, might stop in as an excursion.
That all ended in mid-March 2020 when we were told to go home and stay there to stem COVID-19 transmission.
Amidst all the toilet-paper, tuna and other shortages, I felt scared for the wider asthma community when I read that inhalers might become scarce as hospitals were using them in intensive-care wards all the sudden instead of nebulizers to contain spray. So like so many others, I started a free Zoom class to share my expertise in the crisis.
Here’s what I learned when people from three continents showed up:
- All the sudden it was easy for everyone to reach me in a healthier state, closer to their baseline, That was a significant, positive change especially if we were going to do a baseline breathing assessment!. Previously many clients arrived flustered due to traffic and were closer to the fight-or-flight state!
- For most of my career I had wanted to provide a lot of value for people who had come a long way to see me, and I did. But that didn’t mean they could absorb all the information and insights as quickly as I was blurting it out. It turned out online sessions were a lot more efficient because I could present less information more frequently and it landed more solidly.
- I wanted to be more readily available whenever clients needed me and developed a monthly subscription-type model, which would not have been convenient without virtual “quickies”
- At the office, I could touch clients. I could feel for myself how much air was coursing through their torso when they inhaled and exhaled. I recorded their respiration rate and their pulse.
What’s interesting now is that all sorts of technological tools have become available to take accurate measurements. I ask clients to download the free TapRate app and take their respiration rate by tapping every time they inhale.Heart Rate Pro is another favorite app of mine to yield pulse information.
This trend is about to get even more sophisticated. Scientists with the University of Washington and Microsoft Corporation have developed a tool that allows medical providers to remotely check a patient’s pulse and heart rate. The tool uses the camera on a smartphone or computer to capture video collected of a person’s face, then that video is analyzed to measure changes in the light reflected by the patient’s skin, which correlates to changes in blood volume and motion that are caused by blood circulation.
What’s more, Fitbit and Apple iWatch are competing to appeal to consumers looking for wellness-focused devices and are planning to offer all-new tracking abilities for sleep efficiency, heartrate variability, oxygen saturation and stress level based on variation in skin moisture.
At some future point we can expect there will be the option to transmit these numbers to our health providers. I saw an article recently that to monitor medication adherence there will be a move to put sensors on asthma inhalers so we and our doctors will be able to accurately assess our actual habits. Whether you think that is scary and an abuse of freedom or a great feature, it’s on its way. And we can expect these virtual health trends to continue.
As for my practice, I gave up my office at the end of March 2021 as I continue virtual coaching from my home basement office, and we’ll see how things develop from here!