Most people are familiar with telemedicine being used to provide basic medical consultations to patients in rural or medical underserved areas.
Patients sit in an exam room and connect with an off-site physician or nurse practitioner via secure video conferencing. However, medical providers, companies, and even the military are using telemedicine for to provide care well beyond the exam room. Let’s take a look
Keeping students in the classroom
Typically, when students get sick, they see the school nurse. The nurse evaluates students, and if it is determined they are not faking, calls the students’ parents to pick them up. The parents then make an appointment for their child to see a doctor before he or she returns to school. The whole process can take days.
Schools that have a telemedicine program can speed up the entire process. From the nurse’s office, students can see a physician or nurse practitioner via video conferencing technology. The medical provider can diagnose the student and even prescribe medications, allowing students to get healthy and back in the classroom quicker. The program also provides access to medical professionals for students who may not otherwise have it.
Keeping nursing home residents out of the ED
Researchers from Harvard Medical School found that nursing homes were able to reduce hospitalizations by connecting residents with physicians via telemedicine technology.
Nursing home residents are often hospitalized when they have issues on nights and weekends when there is no physician physically present. Very often, when physicians are contacted, they recommend the resident be taken to the emergency department. These visits to the ED can end up causing more harm to residents, drive up healthcare costs, and further contribute to ED crowding.
Treating soldiers on the battlefield
The Tempus Pro, a tactical telemedicine device, broadcasts vital signs from the battlefield to physicians positioned at an aid station. The physician can then offer direction to the men on the ground via voice or video. The device also supports diagnostic tools such as video laryngoscopy, ultrasound, and blood pressure measuring tools.
Earlier this year, Marines at Camp Pendleton, CA tested whether The Pempus Pro could be used in the battlefield setting.
Reaching patients worldwide
VSee, a video conferencing software company, has used its telemedicine field kit on humanitarian missions to provide medical services to people living in small villages.
The kit is a lightweight, waterproof, and durable briefcase that houses a variety of medical devices including otoscopes and dermascopes. The medical devices integrate with a small computer screen that facilitates a video conference link with a physician in a different location.
Using the kit, residents of the small village of Junke, Gabon were able to teleconference with physicians at the Albert Schweitzer Hospital, which is 40 minutes away.
Connecting providers in the operating room
Surgeons are using Google Glass in a variety of ways. They have recorded their procedures and even viewed CT images without having to turn away from the patient. A team at Toronto’s St. Michael’s Hospital plans to use Google Glass to interact with colleagues during a procedure. Surgeons in the operating room can broadcast a live video feed of their point of view and listen to a colleague provide guidance and advice.
Medical professionals are just scratching the surface of telemedine technology’s potential. As the technology advances and more people become aware of the advantages of using telemedicine, there will likely be many more innovative ways medical professionals can connect with people in need.
Ben Amirault is the Marketing Manager at Barton Associates. He joined Barton Associates in 2012 after spending four years as an editor at HCPro, a national healthcare publishing company. Ben received a B.A. in English, specializing in Journalism, from the University of New Hampshire in Durham, NH.