We can all agree that increasing quality, deflating costs, and extending health care to more people in need is a good thing, right?
Building upon this positive assertion, telecommunications companies are racing to find new ways for patients and doctors to connect, regardless of the distance between them. Whenever travel expenses, geographic location, lack of time, cost issues or patient satisfaction present challenges to providing quality healthcare, telemedicine is emerging as an elegant solution.
Spurred by the widespread development of high quality, affordable video conferencing equipment and software, a number of companies have been exploring new and innovative ways to give remote care to patients in the U.S. and abroad. We’ll take this opportunity to highlight a few promising cases, and discuss the exciting possibilities emerging in the field.
One of the more amazing accomplishments in the realm of TeleHealth is the ability to connect qualified healthcare professionals with patients in extremely remote locations, many of which have no electricity or internet capabilities.
VSee has come up with a compact, portable and effective solution that combines the latest in telepresence equipment with standard medical devices such as ultrasounds, dermascopes, otoscopes, stethoscopes, and EKG monitors. Their Telemedicine Kit has already been deployed in Gabon, Africa where patients are now getting much needed care from doctors and specialists that may be thousands of miles away.
This is an extreme example, but the success of VSee’s Telemedicine Kit in Africa demonstrates that telepresence can be an effective solution for administering care any time geographic location or mobility is an issue.
Orlando Health has taken a very different route with similar telepresence technology. Like VSee, they have designed a portable, self contained videoconferencing box that integrates with simple medical devices such as blood-pressure cuffs and pulse oximeters. Their goal is to reduce overall costs for patients and hospitals by minimizing inpatient admissions related to certain conditions.
So far, the reaction from patients has been positive. They are happy to be at home while receiving the same standard of care they would be getting if they were admitted to the hospital.
One of the main objections people seem to have with telepresence in medicine is a fear of losing the “personal connection” between doctors and patients. Orlando Health is proving the exact opposite. Their system enables doctors and nurses to spend more one on one time with patients, monitor their condition more closely and provide direct, timely response when needed, while the patient remains in the comfort of their own home.
Telepresence isn’t just being used to connect doctors and patients. It also allows doctors to communicate with other doctors for support, education, or cases where specialized treatment is needed but not readily available.
Since 2009, Avera’s eEmergency program has been providing support to clinicians in rural areas around the United States. Using video conferencing technology, local doctors are able to communicate with board certified emergency medical physicians for help diagnosing and treating a variety of critical conditions. The program is saving lives, and saving money by reducing the need for patient transfers between hospitals.
When a patient is in critical condition, seconds can save lives. In many rural areas patients are far away from, or simply do not have access to the level of care they need. Telepresence gives local doctors access to support on demand, enabling better care, faster, with less complication.
The main objective of video conferencing technology has always been to improve communication and understanding over great distances. The more ubiquitous and inexpensive the technology becomes, the more valuable it is to our society as a whole. These few examples only scratch the surface of what is possible with telepresence in the medical field, and the results are overwhelmingly positive. By leaps and bounds telepresence has been changing the face of modern medical care, but has yet to achieve mainstream acceptance.
Would you feel comfortable receiving medical treatment via telepresence? We would love to hear your opinion!