Telemedicine is a growing trend in doctor-patient care -


Telemedicine is a growing trend in doctor-patient care

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Imagine how convenient a visit with your doctor would be without having to leave your home or having to drive to their office? Sound too good to be true?

Well, the concept of face-to-face healthcare technology, or telemedicine, could be coming to your town or smart phone.

Telemedicine has been growing by 10 percent every year allowing experts to reach small towns and help patients by saving them time and money.

Telemedicine is high-speed healthcare. It bring brings physicians to the patients via live video, phone or email. 

"There's lots of things that you can do from a technology point of view that again can help meet patients in a place where they can partner with their healthcare provider and live healthier lives," said Katie Kaney, System Vice President at Carolinas Healthcare System.

To be clear, telemedicine or telehealth is not a substitute for emergency or regular checkups.

With about a fifth of Americans living in places where a primary doctor or specialist is difficult to find, telemedicine is bringing digital communication with a doctor right to their desk.

"Every time I've seen a patient I've seen before I say, 'Hello! How are you doing? Nice to see you again,' and they know me, and I know them, and its just like they were here," said Dr. Edward N. Hanley Jr. who specializes in orthopedic surgery with Carolinas Healthcare System in Charlotte, NC.

Hanley uses telemedicine to provide orthopedic care and advice to patients and primary doctors located miles away.

Not only does this type of video conferencing save everyone a long drive and a lot of time and money, telehealth is also a way to provide care to the elderly or disabled.

For example, a person who needs their blood sugar monitored can have it checked by a doctor right from their home.

Telemedicine can send vital signs remotely for expert interpretation.

Telemedicine is also helping people get a fast, second opinion or provide medical attention during a bad weather situation.

"If we really want to be able to meet people in a place where we can take their care to the next level and partner with it, there's a lot of good use that can come out of that information being available wherever you are," Kaney said.

Skeptics, however, warn of privacy risks and this is why Kaney, who oversees all of Carolinas Healthcare System's telemedicine services, cautions that patients should ask about the protection of any telemedicine service they sign up for.

A healthcare provider utilizing telemedicine should adhere to the HIPPA Privacy Rule which protects the privacy of individually identifiable health information just as they would maintain the same level of protection if a patient and doctor were talking face-to-face.

It's also important for patients to secure the information on their end with cell phone and laptop security passwords.

Make sure you understand the set-up of the telemedicine system you are subscribing to whether its with a hospital or private telemedicine company.

In addition, it's important to find out if the doctor, nurse or physician's assistant will be responding to calls or emails. Make sure that person is not only licensed in the state where you live, but also in the state where they physically practice medicine.

Finally, make sure you have access to copies of your telehealth communications.

"We want to make sure that's in your medical records and a continuum of care that we're really trying to preserve for you as a patient," Kaney said.

If you haven't heard about telemedicine yet, ask your hospital group or physician because as interactive healthcare takes off at your next visit, you may hear the doctor will see you online.

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