Telemedicine is often promoted as an effective tool to improve patient monitoring and lower the cost of delivering care in remote locations, but as the technology spreads across the healthcare sector providers are finding an increasingly diverse array of uses for it.
For example, a recent article in GovernmentTechnology magazine describes the rapid spread of telemedicine throughout state prison systems. “Most states have turned to telemedicine to some extent for treating prisoners,” the writer notes, “ . . . because it allows doctors to examine them from a safe distance. It enables corrections officers keep potentially dangerous inmates behind bars for treatment rather than bearing the cost and security risk of transporting them to hospitals. And because more doctors are willing to participate, it makes health care more available for inmates.”
Meanwhile, even though telemedicine usually refers to a remote connection primarily between providers and patients, a new study has found telemedicine can also be used to bring the expertise of specialists into intensive care settings. The study, published recently in the journal Critical Care Medicine, found that “remote tele-ICU monitoring is especially effective in hospitals that do not have a large number of specialist physicians on staff to manage critically ill patients on site. Such specialists, which include intensivists and internal medicine physicians, act as a ‘second set of eyes’ to help hospital-based doctors and nurses determine if a patient’s condition is worsening.
According to Byung-Kwang Yoo, UC Davis associate professor of public health sciences and lead author of the article, “This technology could be a potential solution that could help improve care, save lives, and save money. There is a relative shortage of critical care physicians and few tend to work in rural and underserved communities.” He added that currently only one in five ICUs have such critical care physicians available on a 24/7 basis.