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Telemedicine: A practical solution to a global healthcare delivery problem

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When you think of telemedicine, what comes to mind? You’ve probably seen references to it if you have visited anyone on a hospital floor recently. Did you wonder:

  • Is it doctors talking to you from a distant location over “face time” on your iPhone? 
  • How about your home devices like electronic scales, temperature sensors and blood pressure monitoring devices phoning into your doctor your recent measurements?
  • Or maybe it’s all about a surgeon using some type of machine to perform surgery on you from hundreds, even thousands of miles away?
  • Maybe it’s a robot on wheels with some likeness of a talking head telling you to eat your peas and carrots, drink more water and always follow your doctor’s instructions for health happiness?

The fact is these are just a few examples of all the possible options for telemedicine application. So what is telemedicine?  It is not nearly as complicated as it may seem. There are a number of definitions but they all point to the same general idea: Telemedicine is the use of medical information exchanged from one site to another via electronic communications to improve patients’ health status.  Simple.

Telemedicine is not a separate medical specialty. In fact, products and services related to telemedicine are often part of a larger investment by health care institutions in either information technology or the delivery of clinical care.

In the near to mid-term, telemedicine technology offers one of the few ways of enabling healthcare personnel to meet the increased demand without unacceptable delays or other forms of de facto rationing. It is said to rest on three pillars:

  • Improved access between the patient and their care provider
  • Enhanced quality in the outcome of the patient’s care
  • Cost savings for the patient as well as for the care provider

As with any change on the healthcare spectrum, there will be some adjustment period by both the patient and their doctor as they negotiate long-distance versus in-the-room care. There is even some thought among experts that the emerging mobile and social media technologies will influence certain aspects of telemedicine, making it more attractive and cost-effective for patients and healthcare facilities alike, while opening up access to care in different locations. There will always be some care needs that can only be accomplished in person, in a location such as a doctor’s office, or medical center. In these cases telemedicine can be an adjunct in the process.

The good news for all is that case studies are showing positive patient outcomes from having experienced a telemedicine care encounter, with the benefits far outweighing the shortcomings for many clinical procedures including telestroke, telepsychology, and teledermatology to name a few. Researchers at UC Davis Children’s Hospital found telemedicine consults “significantly improved outcomes for patients treated in rural pediatric emergency departments that lack pediatric specialists” according to a report in Information Week

From Ergotron’s perspective, helping hospitals and patients interact in ways that support health, versus harm is key. Telemedicine, delivered and viewed on platforms that are adjustable to user requirements will ensure the most comfortable experience possible, no matter the application.

In a world of global healthcare delivery problems, telemedicine is emerging as a practical solution to some of the woes.