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Medicine + Technology
+ Telecommunications = Telemedicine
By Hilary Gibson, Staff Writer

(Page 2 of 3)

Utilized when a face-to-face consultation is necessary, the second most widely-used technology is two-way, interactive television (IATV). This is when the patient, along with their healthcare provider (a doctor or a nurse practitioner) and a telemedicine coordinator (or a combination of the three), gather at one site (the originating site), and a specialist is at another site (the referral site) which is usually at a large, metropolitan medical center. Videoconferencing equipment is placed at both locations allowing for a consultation to take place in “real-time”. Videoconferencing technology has decreased in price over the past few years, and many of the computer programs are no longer as complex as they once were, allowing for healthcare professionals to use nothing more than a simple desktop videoconferencing system. Almost all areas of medicine have been able to benefit from videoconferencing, including psychiatry, internal medicine, rehabilitation, cardiology, pediatrics, obstetrics, gynecology and neurology. Also, many different peripheral devices like otoscopes (which help doctors look inside the ear) and stethoscopes (which enable a doctor to listen to a person’s heartbeat) can be attached to computers, aiding with an interactive examination. Many healthcare professionals are becoming more creative with the technology that’s available to them in order to conduct telemedicine. For example, it's not unusual to use store-and-forward, interactive, audio, and video still images in a variety of combinations and applications. Use of the Web to transfer clinical information and data is also becoming more prevalent, and the use of wireless technology is being used to provide ambulances with mobile telemedicine services of all kinds.

Around the world, there are many programs being used in a variety of ways to provide technologically-advanced healthcare. Telemedicine can be used in the remotest parts of the world or in places as close as a correctional facility, helping to eliminate the dangers and costs associated with the transportation of prisoners to a medical center. Also on the horizon for telemedicine is the development of robotics equipment for telesurgery applications which would enable a surgeon in one location to remotely control a robotics arm for surgery in another location. The military has been at the forefront of development for this type of technology because of the obvious advantages it offers for use on the battlefield; however, some academic medical centers and research organizations are also testing and using telesurgery in order to continue the advancements in telemedicine.

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