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Telemedicine’s Role in Health Care

I had never heard of telemedicine until today and I’m still baffled by it. How can a doctor treat a patient remotely and how does this type of care affect those training to be nurses in avocational nursing program?

Michael T. Provencher, MPH, RRT, and Paul F. Nuccio, MS, RRT, FAARC wrote an article in this month’s RT Magazine entitled Telemedicine: What Is It All About? Generally speaking “Telemedicine is an extension of eHealth defined as the use of new and emerging technology to enhance health and health care.1 Two other frequently used terms associated with telemedicine are telecare and telemonitoring, the latter representing distant monitoring of patients in their home environment. Telemedicine represents an exciting shift in the delivery of health care, a shift that will transition patient care from the physician’s office or clinic into the patient’s home. On a regional level, it will allow urban providers to reach rural areas.”

According to this article, 78% of health costs are attributed to chronic conditions so telemedicine is directed to these patients. So far, patients suffering from COPD have been the focus group on implementing this new technology. “COPD is an irreversible lung disease characterized by non-fully reversible bronchoconstriction, a disease that requires close monitoring, medication adherence, and socio-behavioral changes in order to reduce symptoms and maximize the patient’s ability to function daily. For COPD, telemedicine could offer health care providers greater flexibility in the delivery of care, along with improvements in patient monitoring to help prevent COPD exacerbations,” explains Provencher and Nuccio.

A major plus to this advancement in technology is that patients in remote areas or patients that are not near specialists to treat their conditions can have access to treatment. “For those in remote regions of any state or province, videoconferencing and distant consultation could be used to provide care over very large distances. Regarding care over large distances, it was ruled by law that if providers were to provide care within a particular state’s boundaries, they would have to have a license within that jurisdiction. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has recognized the importance of telemedicine and its potential for improving access to care and reducing costs.”

Through being able to meet with a doctor via Skype or the internet, patients can access medical attention readily. The primary setback in using this system is insurance reimbursements.

Students in a Vocational Nursing school may be wondering where this leaves them. Will nurses still be in demand? The Bureau of Labor and Statistics reports that there will be a shortage of health care workers until the year 2030. Two of the perceived benefits of telemedicine would be easing the burden of nurses and providing preventative care. I’m eager to see how this pans out!

To read the complete article mentioned in this post, please visit
http://www.rtmagazine.com/issues/articles/2011-07_04.asp