CIO - Telemedicine uses a variety of electronic communications media, ranging from teleconferencing to image-sharing to remote patient monitoring, to provide clinical services to a patient. As the American Telemedicine Association points out, telemedicine is associated with, but not the same as, telehealth, which also refers to nonclinical services such as research, training and administration.
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The use of telemedicine technology dates back to the late 1960s, when physicians ran a microwave line under Boston Harbor to connect Massachusetts General Hospital with Logan International Airport in order to examine patients at the airport clinic while avoiding Boston traffic.
Today, telemedicine is used in medical fields such as dermatology, behavioral health and cardiology as a way to provide better care to communities underserved by physicians, hospitals or both; it is also considered a way to significantly reduce the cost of treating health conditions, including hypertension, diabetes and sleep apnea, which benefit from continued monitoring of a patient's condition.
Dr. Jason Knight remotely examines an ER patient using a robot during a clinical validation process at Hoag Memorial Hospital Presbyterian in Newport Beach, Calif.
Here's a look at 10 ways that telemedicine technology is changing the delivery of healthcare-along with a note of caution for organizations that are taking advantage of relaxed regulations to expand their use of telemedicine services.
1. Diagnose and Treat Strokes Faster
The sooner a stroke victim receives treatment, the better the chance of survival. In many cases, treatment hinges on the capability to identify key symptoms and administer medicine known as tissue plasminogen activator (tPA) within three to five hours of suffering a stroke. Unfortunately, emergency room physicians don't always have the expertise to make these decisions, and small or rural hospitals don't always have a neurologist on call.
Enter telestroke services, which have been shown to improve stroke treatment in several ways:
- Patients treated in hospitals that were part of a telestroke network in Georgia received tPA approximately 20 minutes faster than patients in hospitals outside the network.
- Telestroke helped facilities in remote parts of Alberta reduce ER transfers to the University Hospital in Edmonton by up to 92 percent. Such ambulance or helicopter transports are costly, time-consuming and sometimes dangerous.
- Videoconferencing led to more accurate diagnoses and treatments than telephone conversations in the Imperial Valley of California and in Boston.
- Neurologists and radiologists in Arizona were able to use smartphone image-sharing applications that proved to be as accurate as desktop-based picture archiving and communication systems 92 percent of the time.
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2. Provide ICU Physicians, Nurses a Second Set of Eyes
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While it may seem a contradiction in terms, digital automation tools may make possible a new level of personalization in medical care.
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