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By Jennifer Bradley, Staff Writer

(Page 4 of 5)  

It also explains that more than 25 percent of emergency room visits are for non-urgent or unknown causes, and that access to telemedicine care, especially for rural residents, will help save the hospital rooms for those most in need. Ten percent of physicians practice in rural America, while nearly one-quarter of the population resides in these same areas.

With this research, the need for telemedicine standards to eliminate risk to both practitioner and patient has not gone unnoticed. The American Telemedicine Association has developed what it calls the "Core Standards for Telemedicine Operations," some practice guidelines as well as technical standards for the industry. From quality care and performance management to patient awareness and licensing requirements, the document offers professionals a roadmap in this fairly unchartered territory.

Telemedicine For All Ages

Since January 2007, students at New York’s Onondaga County schools are using telemedicine to monitor their diabetes. Each month, the 23 students have standing appointments with school nurses, who use first-rate technology, including a computer-mounted camera, to speak with doctors, record blood sugar levels, etc. Doctors are able to write prescriptions for the school nurse if insulin or other medication is needed.

In the eastern United States, diabetic monitoring is also a target service for the Central Vermont Home Health and Hospice. The organization received a grant in 2003, which allowed it to buy 25 monitoring units that are stored in high-risk cardiac and diabetic patients’ homes. Patients are prompted each day to take their own vital signs, which are then sent to a nurse who analyzes the data.

The same program is helping patients in the southern part of the country, through Acadian Ambulance’s Telehealth Monitoring. This group has partnered with home health agencies, providing in-home patient monitoring. Decreasing re-hospitalization rates and emergency department visits is the purpose, said Faye Bryant, the Telehealth nurse manager. Patients are then able to heal in their own homes, with less cost, and less stress to patient and families alike.

In Iowa, Colonial Manor, a nursing home in Amana, is serving as a test site for e-TeleHealth, a system developed by the University of Iowa that provides full, interactive, live-video and audio capacity. A nurse, dentist, and physician can be sitting in their offices or homes and access the e-TeleHealth Web site for carrying out a live visit with a patient.

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