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Telemedicine: A Lifeline for Patients in Remote and Underserved Areas

March 11, 2011
at 5:19 pm PST

Ever wonder how a doctor thousands of miles away could change … or even save your life? 

I recently came across yet another inspiring story in The San Diego Union Tribune on how telemedicine is bringing care to patients in underserved and remote areas.  In this case, it was the story of Amanda Gosman, a plastic surgeon who founded a non-profit organization ConnectMed International.  Gosman travels to remote villages along the Rio Dulce River in Guatemala to perform cleft palate surgeries.  When she returns home to La Jolla, CA, telemedicine allows her to manage the patients’ care in the weeks, months and years after an operation.  Gosman also utilizes telemedicine technology to conduct surgeries from her office in La Jolla by talking an on-site physician through a procedure.

It’s promising to see how much telemedicine is catching on.  We’ve seen tremendous success with healthcare organizations using telepresence as part of their telemedicine strategy.  And it’s not just about cost savings – it’s about offering critical care to patients in need.  Meet Iva Sikes, for example, an 89-year old woman who lives four miles from the rural Mena Regional Hospital in Arkansas.  Thanks to the hospital’s affiliation with Arkansas SAVES (Stroke Assistance Through Virtual Emergency Support), doctors 130 miles away at University of Arkansas Medical Science were able to diagnose Sikes’s stroke and administer medication within a critical three hour timeframe that saved her life. Without telemedicine, Sikes may not have received this critical medication in the same timely manner.   

The state of Arkansas ANGELS program is another example of how healthcare has become a lifeline for those in remote areas.  Check out this video on how a pregnant woman is able to get the critical care needed for her baby – care she otherwise would not have been able to afford.

The stories are endless and serve to remind us of the great potential telepresence has to transform the way we live.

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