Friday, April 17, 2009


An interesting new development which is an alternative to traditional doctor’s visits is the specialty of Telemedicine. This is a way for retirees to receive medical information via telephone, the Internet or other networks. Telemedicine may be as simple as two health professionals discussing a case over the telephone, or as complex as using satellite technology and video-conferencing equipment to conduct a real-time consultation between medical specialists in two different countries. Telemedicine generally involves communications and information technology instead of hands-on medicine. This can be very important to seniors who are homebound.

As a Home Health Physical Therapist, my colleagues (nurses, occupational and speech therapists) often wish there were more of us to provide these important services to homebound seniors. Telemedicine certainly looks promising to fill part of this ever increasing need for seniors to remain at home and as independent as possible.

Basically, Telemedicine allows patients to visit with physicians live over video for immediate care. Whether you live in the center of Los Angeles or deep in the Brazilian Amazon, Telemedicine is an invaluable tool in Healthcare.

Here's an example of how Telemedicine works every day. Say you have a horrible sore throat and visit your healthcare provider who does an examination and is concerned with what he or she sees. Your provider recommends a referral to an ENT (Ear/Nose/Throat) specialist for a follow up diagnosis and treatment plan. Well, instead of traveling to the nearest specialist, which could be anywhere from a 45-minute drive to an 18-hour boat ride up the Amazon River, your provider connects you directly to the ENT specialist via Telemedicine.

The advantage of this arrangement is that the specialist actually hears your medical history and current condition directly from you and your provider instead of receiving a dictated note in the mail, which all takes time. Meanwhile you are still suffering!

The specialist can diagnose and recommend treatment immediately. And an additional benefit is the the opportunity for your doctor to ask questions and learn from each and every consultation. This continual education will be an immeasurable benefit to all his or her patients.