Telemedicine: Click here and the doctor will see you now

(Dr. Mosquera and Ariel Coro, tech expert’s appearance on CNN’s morning “Cafe” show commenting about the advancement of Telemedicine)

Have you ever wished that seeking out medical care or checking in with your doctor wasn’t so stressful and time consuming? An up and coming strategy integrating new technology is proving this anxiety is unnecessary, and it’s called Telemedicine!

Simply put, Telemedicine is the use of computers, tablets and smartphones to access medical care. It helps eliminate distance barriers and can promote access to medical services that would often not be consistently available in distant rural communities.

Telemedicine includes a growing variety of applications and services for patients, using two-way video, email, smart phones, wireless tools and other forms of telecommunication technology.

According to the American Telemedicine Association (ATA), this technology started over 40 years ago as a way for hospitals to extend care to people in remote areas. Today, telemedicine is used in doctors’ offices, home health agencies and even workplaces, and provides patients with the convenience of getting medical care from the comfort of their home or workplace without having to take time out of their busy schedules.

The ATA hosted their 20th Annual Conference, the largest telemedicine trade show in the world, earlier this year. The country’s leading medical and technology experts gathered to discuss various topics such as how to deliver great care using telemedicine and also the challenges and limitations that come without face-to-face contact with a doctor. The latest telemedicine technology was also on display.

Dr.Joseph Mosquera, one of the the nation’s leading Integrative Medicine specialists and founder of saludmóvil, attended this year’s conference. “The use of distant robotics technology and advanced optics seen at the conference are very exciting ways to help patients.” notes Dr. Mosquera. “However, compassion, the human touch and that essential doctor-patient relationship remain very important needs in healthcare, and is something that can never be replaced by technology.  These essential parts of patient care will continue to require traditional consultations and evaluations.”

Telemedicine is sometimes seen as being the same thing as health information technology (HIT), but it’s important to keep in mind HIT more commonly refers to electronic medical records and related information systems. Telemedicine refers to the actual service of receiving remote clinical care via technology.

Telemedicine is gaining traction in the US and abroad as a way to make healthcare less time-consuming and more cost-effective. For example, stroke patients in Singapore are using iPads for remote rehabilitation and therefore removing the need to physically visit hospitals or clinics. The new treatment is part of a tele-rehabilitation program currently being trialled by the National University of Singapore (NUS) to get patients back to their normal lives and on their feet sooner.

Another example can be found in Massachusetts, where telemedicine is being used at Mass General Hospital for Parents of children staying in the intensive care unit to keep them informed on the well-being of their children.

In MGH’s Children Pediatric Intensive Care Unit, mobile computer stations allow parents access via an iPad provided by the hospital. When a parent is unable to be physically sitting next to their child’s bedside, a physician has the authorization to allow access using the tools, according to Phoebe Yager, M.D, the hospital’s director for pediatric telemedicine. The services are HIPAA complaint and have a very reliable connection, Yager adds.

More and more hospitals are integrating telemedicine with intensive care units to improve safety and make them less dehumanizing. Telemedicine provide avenue for a new focus on engaging families and patients in decisions in healthcare.

Thanks to Telemedicine, healthcare is getting a lot more friendly.