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Imagine with me for just a minute. You feel a little “under the weather”, and think you need to see a health care provider. You would rather not go anywhere to do this. So, you log into your computer, go to a certain website, sign up and pay a “co pay”. At that point, you are put in a virtual waiting room. Then, a provider is available and through your webcam, you Skype your visit with the provider. Is this the wave of the future? No, this is available in some areas right now. The future is here! Now, this is just one example of telemedicine.

What is Telemedicine?

Telemedicine is the ability to provide interactive healthcare utilizing modern technology and telecommunications. Basically, Telemedicine allows patients to visit with physicians live over video for immediate care or capture video/still images and patient data are stored and sent to physicians for diagnosis and follow-up treatment at a later time. Whether you live in the center of Los Angeles or deep in the Brazilian Amazon, Telemedicine is an invaluable tool in healthcare.

Advantages of Telemedicine

Telemedicine is most beneficial for populations living in isolated communities and remote regions and is currently being applied in virtually all medical domains. Specialties that use telemedicine often use a “tele-” prefix; for example, telemedicine as applied by radiologists is called Teleradiology. Similarly telemedicine as applied by cardiologists is termed as telecardiology, etc.

Telemedicine is also useful as a communication tool between a general practitioner and a specialist available at a remote location.

Disadvantages of Telemedicine

First of all, one problem is that many fear that it will take away from personal one on one time. Conferences and video can’t replace valuable time between doctor and patient or more personal discussion that doctors and physicians might otherwise have with each other.

Legal complications are raising another red flag. Laws and a set code of rules and ethics will first need to be applied before telemedicine can be used regularly in various capacities. This alone might take some time.

Services and how professionals get paid for them will all need to be resolved as telemedicine becomes a more fluent practice. This can prove to be a difficult determination.

Then we have clinical risk and over dependence on this telemedicine system. Due to the risks involved with what is reliable vs. unreliable information and over dependence or over use of telemedicine can easily get out of control until more uniformed strategies and procedures are put into play.

Telemedicine is still a new “specialty”. It may soon be a viable option for you. So, would you be interested in a seeing a health care provider on your computer, rather than in person?

I am interested in your comments on this subject, as telemedicine could be coming soon…..

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