November 07, 2012, 10:31 AM — Telemedicine uses a variety of electronic communications media, ranging from teleconferencing to image-sharing to remote patient monitoring, to provide clinical services to a patient. As the American Telemedicine Association points out, telemedicine is associated with, but not the same as, telehealth, which also refers to nonclinical services such as research, training and administration.
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The use of telemedicine technology dates back to the late 1960s, when physicians ran a microwave line under Boston Harbor to connect Massachusetts General Hospital with Logan International Airport in order to examine patients at the airport clinic while avoiding Boston traffic.
Today, telemedicine is used in medical fields such as dermatology, behavioral health and cardiology as a way to provide better care to communities underserved by physicians, hospitals or both; it is also considered a way to significantly reduce the cost of treating health conditions, including hypertension, diabetes and sleep apnea, which benefit from continued monitoring of a patient's condition.
Dr. Jason Knight remotely examines an ER patient using a robot during a clinical validation process at Hoag Memorial Hospital Presbyterian in Newport Beach, Calif.
Here's a look at 10 ways that telemedicine technology is changing the delivery of healthcare-along with a note of caution for organizations that are taking advantage of relaxed regulations to expand their use of telemedicine services.
1. Diagnose and Treat Strokes Faster
The sooner a stroke victim receives treatment, the better the chance of survival. In many cases, treatment hinges on the capability to identify key symptoms and administer medicine known as tissue plasminogen activator (tPA) within three to five hours of suffering a stroke. Unfortunately, emergency room physicians don't always have the expertise to make these decisions, and small or rural hospitals don't always have a neurologist on call.
Enter telestroke services, which have been shown to improve stroke treatment in several ways: