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In Health Care Today, It's Electronic All the Way
Date:10/3/2009

Despite telemedicine advances, doctor-patient relationship remains key, experts say,,

SATURDAY, Oct. 3 (HealthDay News) -- Imagine that you see a new mole and don't like the looks of it so you take a picture of it using your cell phone and e-mail it to your family doctor for an opinion.

Or perhaps you have heart disease and take your blood pressure using a cuff that automatically uploads the data to your cardiologist's computer for review.

Using electronic communications equipment to transmit medical information for consultation or examination -- known as telemedicine -- has come a long way from its beginnings as a means for rural areas to have access via teleconferencing to top-flight specialists.

In fact, technology has advanced to the point that telemedicine is beginning to blur into the normal daily routine of a doctor, said Dr. Jason Mitchell, assistant director for the Center for Health Information Technology of the American Academy of Family Physicians.

"Someday we won't even consider it telemedicine anymore," Mitchell said. "It'll just be part of the way we practice medicine."

And evidence is mounting that telemedicine can play a positive role in health care. A study in the journal Stroke found that the use of teleconferencing and the transmission of CT brain scans is beneficial to the initial treatment of stroke victims, later assessment of the amount of brain damage they've received and the rehabilitation they will go through during their long-term recuperation.

Some new ways of practicing medicine already taking place that could be considered telemedicine include:

  • Ambulances transmitting EKG data to the hospital they're en route to
  • Automated pill counters that transmit data that lets doctors know whether medications are being taken as prescribed
  • Teleconferences to bring in specialists for consultation in such fields as dermatology, n
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