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The straight dope on telemedicine

September 29, 2009 - 1 Comment

Last week the TANDBERG team was at the American Telemedicine Association (ATA)’s third annual mid-year conference. Despite the tough economic times, the show was bigger and livelier than ever this year. The adoption of video conferencing has risen dramatically, and attendees were excited to talk about how to implement video and to share best practices.

Driven by the somber forecast for a H1N1 comeback this flu season, a hot topic was the demand for acute medical care and the ability to increase capacity with telemedicine. Having physicians see more patients in a shorter amount of time – and at more locations – is appealing not only from a quality of care and people reached perspective, but also from the doctor’s perspective. Seeing a flu patient over video also means it’s less likely that the doctor will get sick as well. It’s quite a healthy win/win!

Mental Health and Behavioral Health are natural applications for video communications – patients can get the care they need without driving, missing work or school time and docs more easily see more patients in a wider geography.

The conference has also turned into a hotbed for start-ups. The floor was chock full of people interested in getting into telemedicine. We talked to attendees about everything from a non-profit bringing healthcare to students in Haiti to a small private practice connecting to a large, urban hospital. There is no doubt telemedicine has hit the tipping point and the American Telemedicine Association is the place to be for information, guidelines and networking.

Healthcare to children and schools was a big focus of discussion – partly because one of the tracks was the 4th Annual Pediatric Telehealth Colloquium, but also because schools and healthcare providers alike are realizing the power of video communications to delivery healthcare more efficiently. The applications discussed were numerous – diabetes education, mental health treatment, drug and alcohol education and treatment. And all of this can be done without losing instructional time or incurring costs of travel/transport.

Central to the ongoing healthcare reform debate is the inconsistent level of care delivered to American citizens. These discrepancies and the gaps in access to effective healthcare are huge issues that video can address in immediate ways. Vulnerable populations, especially in remote, underserved areas, can access care from a previously inaccessible specialist via video at a local clinic or even in their home.

Look for telemedicine to remain a white hot space, and we’ll look for you at the next ATA event!

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  1. Video translations, closed captioning in foreign languages and live foreign language interpretation work will surely grow and offer value to so many vulnerable communities needing health care in other languages. A best practice not to forget.