Feb 18, 2020

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Dr. Barrett's Mental Health Turning Point

Dr. John Barrett is a family physician and the Executive Medical Director of the Community Physician Group for University of Utah Health. He reached his own health turning point over a decade ago.

Dr. Barrett found himself giving in to the anger and frustration that comes with being a physician. Like many men, this stress and frustration was actually a sign of depression. He was able to identify the symptoms in himself and seek help.

After reaching out to loved ones and working with professionals, Dr. Barrett was able to work through his mental disorder. It took over a year of talk therapy and medication to get his mental health back to a place where he could thrive.

"Down south I was what we would call 'a mess,'" says Barrett.

These days, Dr. Barrett is always on the lookout for signs of his own mental health. Whenever he notices a warning sign he focuses on self-care, focusing on his physical health, and reaching out to professional help before things get worse.

Like most health concerns, Barrett's mental health is something he's continually working on, but he feels more in control of his own mental health and wellbeing today than he did a decade ago.

Telehealth: More Options for Medical Access

Dr. Barrett works with the Telehealth group at University of Utah Health, and he's seen first hand some of the applications emerging technology can have in the healthcare space. But first, what exactly is telemedicine.

Telemedicine is the means of providing healthcare access from a patient to a health professional using digital means like text or video chat through a computer or smartphone.

At University of Utah Health, in-state patients can call in via an app or web portal to speak directly to a general practitioner through a video call. For University of Utah employees and patients with a University of Utah Health insurance plan, these video calls are covered by insurance. For other patients in Utah, there's a flat $49 fee that will be refunded if the call is escalated to an in-person visit.

What Can a Doctor Do Over Video Chat?

According to Dr. Barrett, the best way to think of a telehealth video call is like "virtual urgent care." Half of the patients calling in are given advice and counsel about whether or not they need to see a doctor in person. The other half are given a diagnosis of a relatively minor medical condition. And a very small percentage of patients contact telemedicine services with a concern that needs to be escalated to emergency care.

When a physician diagnoses a condition over a virtual visit, they can prescribe medications necessary for treatment. Dr. Barrett shares a story of a woman who was out on a camping trip in the Wasatch Mountains. After suspecting she had a urinary tract infection, she drove her car back down far enough to get cell reception. She was able to call a physician, get a diagnosis, and a prescription for an antibiotic right over the phone.

A large portion of the phone calls the telehealth team receives is from young new parents. When your kid is sick, it can be stressful. It can be difficult to determine if it's an emergency or if you can wait to seek help the following day. A quick video call to a physician can help to diagnose most pediatric concerns and help put a parent's mind to rest.

Other growing telemedicine fields include dermatology, where specialists can diagnose rashes and moles with pictures or videos. New services are also developing ways for people to access mental health services through text and chat.

How Can I Access Telemedicine?

For Utahns, you can use the digital health services at University of Utah Health through the MyChart app if available, or visit healthcare.utah.edu/telehealth for more information.


ER or Not: Broken Nose

Scot recently came across a skateboarder on campus whose face was covered in blood. There were no signs of a head injury, but the kid had broken his nose. Scot tried to help but he wasn't sure where to send him. Urgent care or ER?

According to Troy, a broken nose is no reason to go to an emergency room or an urgent.

As long as the person with the broken nose has not been knocked out, nor are dealing with a head injury, a broken nose is nothing serious. These days, if a patient comes to the ER with a broken nose, there's not much they can do to treat it. No big tubes of cotton stuck up the nose. No "setting of the broken nose." Nothing.

In most cases of a broken nose, the amount of swelling present limits the options doctors have for any type of treatment. The swelling must go down before any corrective measures can be taken.

Troy suggests that if you have a broken nose, wait a week for the swelling to go down, then go visit an ear, nose, and through (ENT) specialist. They will be able to better assess the damage and create a treatment plan after the swelling has gone down.

There is one caveat to this advice. If you look in the mirror up your nose and there's something on your septum that looks like a grape, you may need to go to the ER. This type of growth is called a nasal septal hematoma. It's essentially a big sac of blood that forms after an injury. When one of these hematomas grows in the nose, it can potentially erode the septum leading to potential structural problems. These hematomas are rare, but need immediate treatment if found.


Housekeeping - We Have a Winner!

We announce the winner of the Who Cares About Their DNA Giveaway. For the last 6 weeks the guys at the Who Cares Podcast have been looking into the complicated issue of at-home genetics testing and calling for submissions for people interested in winning one of these kits and the opportunity to be on the show.

Our winner is listener Matt. Matt is thirty years old and he says this about wanting the test:

"I want to know more about my body, based on the things that are out of my control. A genetics test can help me understand what chances I have of developing certain disorders or what ones I could pass on to my children."

We'll be reaching out to Matt to speak with him about the aspects of these tests we've been exploring and have him on the show.

Thank you to everyone who participated!

Just Going to Leave This Here

On this episode's Just Going to Leave This Here, Scot has made a serious caffeine mistake. Troy muses about the first dog in space.

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