Telemedicine: The Next Medical Frontier
The old way: You develop a mysterious rash. You call your doctor's office for an appointment, leave work early, sit in traffic, and then sit some more in the waiting room. After examining your rash, your doctor decides you need to see a dermatologist. You obtain a referral, make another appointment, rearrange your schedule, sit in more traffic, and finally arrive at the dermatologist's office for diagnosis and treatment.The new way: In the exam room, your doctor photographs your rash with a digital camera and sends it, along with any examination findings, via computer to the dermatologist. The dermatologist reviews the information, asks additional questions if necessary, makes a diagnosis, and recommends a course of treatment. Alternately, your doctor may establish a video link to the specialist, allowing you to receive an immediate consultation, diagnosis, and treatment plan.The use of telecommunication lines to transmit medical information, also known as telemedicine, is one of the fastest growing and most quickly evolving US industries.
Benefits for PatientsNot long ago, telemedicine was used mainly to help the exchange of information between doctors and medical institutions. As the technology improves and becomes more accessible, new avenues of diagnosis, monitoring, and treatment are opening up. Here are the highlights of how people are benefiting from telemedicine:
- Patients in rural and underserved communities gain access to quality healthcare.
- Providing care to patients who travel abroad and may not speak the native language.
- Technological advances allow emergency responders to transmit better information from emergency vehicles to emergency room personnel.
- Video links between medical institutions and nursing homes or patients' homes provide caregivers and patients with immediate access to doctors.
- Monitoring devices allow homebound patients to transmit their heart rates, blood pressure, glucose levels, and other important data from their homes to their doctor.
- Correctional facilities can use telemedicine to avoid transporting a prisoner to a doctor's office.