That Day the Internet Saved My Pig

I’m a firm believer you can learn anything on the Internet. I’ve used the Internet to help me troubleshoot assisting my goat give birth, shingle a roof, lay wood flooring, build a chicken coop, and many other things outside of my core sphere of knowledge. So when my pet pot belly pig’s health looked bleak, the Internet delivered again.

Last year a neighbor’s daughter was getting married. She had a pet pot belly pig named Runt and couldn’t keep it where she and her husband were going live. They asked us if we would be interested in adopting Runt and we agreed. I figured my girls would enjoy having a pet pig around — since the only pigs we have annually end up in the freezer and are far from pets. To my surprise, I enjoyed having Runt around and she was a much better gardener than I was. Runt had a tendency to pull all the large weeds in the field and use them to make her bedding. I live on three acres of land just outside Silicon Valley so anything that helps keep my yard under control is a plus.

Runt was a good pet, a good eater of all our organic meal scraps, and a great assistant gardener in my pasture which is why I was sad the day I noticed her health took a turn for the worst. It was mid-summer and try as I did to keep foxtails down in the pasture, she ended up getting one stuck in her eye. Unfortunately, I didn’t notice it until she had already developed a mild infection. I succeeded in removing the foxtail, however, she was already exhibiting on the downward spiral of not eating and having diarrhea. I’ve lost enough livestock over the past few years to know when things are looking bleak. As much as I enjoy having Runt around I wasn’t about to pay hefty veterinarian fees before knowing it was absolutely necessary, so I turned to the Internet. I Googled the symptoms Runt was having and stumbled across a website Justanswer.com. Their model is simple, for a subscription fee, you can ask a question to a specialist, in this case a veterinarian, and within a few hours they get back to you with answers and solutions. There was a trial period so I gave it a shot. I submitted the question specific to the veterinarian for larger animals/livestock.

After a few hours, and some back and forth on the message thread, the answer was to get some prescription medication to attack the internal infection. Luckily, living in an area that raises cows, horses, pigs, goat, and sheep, finding this medication was relatively easy. The next day I picked some up and gave Runt her shots twice a day. A week later she was good as new. What cost me less than $100 in total would have cost closer to $300 if I took Runt in to see a vet. This experience brings up some interesting observations. If you are like me, any little health related issue or abnormality with myself or someone in my family turns me to the Internet.

I’m a bit of a self-aware hypochondriac which can cause quite the anxiety issues when every health-related search on the Internet leads to Cancer. A solution like JustAnswer is convenient in this case because you can have an actual interaction with a doctor as a first tier support for an issue. This eliminates the need to go to a doctor unless it is determined that is the next best course of action.

Ultimately this solution, and ones that will continue to pop up around telehealth help us diagnose then determine a course of action. There is relief in knowing if something is serious or not and what the best course of action is in a health related situation.

The younger generation is like me. They will turn to the Internet for answers first. This is why the healthcare industry is poised to change. How we visit a doctor has not changed since our grandparents and great grandparents. We go to an office, put our name on a sheet of paper and wait for our name to be called. This will all change and modern tools will be the catalyst. As wearable technology can be integrated with health systems my Dr can be proactive in being alerted in anomalies or changes in my health.

Similarly, as my baby boomer parents age, I’ll be looking for technology solutions to help in monitoring their health as well. I want them to have the connected pill box that will help me make sure they are taking their pills. Or the wearable device that assures me they are walking 2 miles a day.

This experience with JustAnswer convinced me, this is the direction healthcare is heading. Being able to interact remotely and quickly and from anywhere (largely via their smartphone), will be demanded by the generation born connected.

This will prove true with more than just healthcare.

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