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Medicine United States Science

Telemedicine Comes Into Its Own 50

goG writes "Telemedicine — providing care using advanced communications technology may be coming into its own with a little help from Uncle Sam. The Obama administration recently awarded $795 million in grants and loans for 66 new broadband projects. Most of these projects will involve using videoconferencing equipment to allow doctors to consult on medical procedures or examinations remotely."
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Telemedicine Comes Into Its Own

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    Medical practices bring in enough money to do this on their own if/when it is appropriate for their business to have the capability. I did some consulting work for a large medical practice like 9 years ago to give them this capability and they paid for it without having to spend tax dollars.

    In a down economy with an enormous budget deficit, this is just completely irresponsible.

  • Government funding technology??? Maybe I was just looping back to a strange, twilight zone-ish 8 years for some reason.

    And before you mark this as a troll or flamebait, just remember that during this 8 years I speak of, we stopped funding the UN for AIDS education in Africa because funding for abortion also came from that funding. So anyone want to chime in on how Africa is doing as a whole? Better or worse? I sound like an optician here...
  • by maillemaker ( 924053 ) on Thursday July 15, 2010 @12:44PM (#32915244)

    Coming soon: Your insurance company will pay the maximum benefit if and only if you use their preferred tele-presence doctors from India.

  • Outsourcing? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by ascari ( 1400977 ) on Thursday July 15, 2010 @12:45PM (#32915254)
    OK, great but this initiative lays the groundwork to outsource certain medical specialities like radiology and pathology to lower cost countries. Why is this a good way to spend tax money?
    • Not sure where I see the logical leap you're to outsourcing our radiology or pathology to foreign countries. The article mentions that this is an emerging marketspace in many countries, but doesn't indicate any multi-national linkage of these telemedicine facilities.
    • by guruevi ( 827432 )

      First of all, outsourcing to other countries is difficult to do for some/most cultures as you have import/export restrictions and delays that could be unacceptable. Besides, a bit of competition is always healthy. Do you really think it costs $1000 to test your stool sample? I work in research but our organization also does translational medicine and also contains a hospital. Sure the machines cost $3m but we charge researchers only $125 for a procedure while private companies pay a flat rate of $700 but in

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by maxume ( 22995 )

      Why is it good? Because each dollar of medical spending can then consume a greater amount of medical care.

      There are lots of distortions where individuals don't get a full range of choices, but unless you keep a rather large garden and like to saw your own lumber, you actually love trade.

    • My mom works in the radiology department of a small hospital in the middle of nowhere that transfers pretty much anyone that needs more than a bandaid (ie, it's not a big, fancy hospital with loads of special services). All of their various radiological machines are hooked up to the department's LAN and outside M-F,9-5 the images are sent to one of the radiologists to read and report on. The chief radiologist has an office at home and then there's a service they hire out when he's on vacation or not availab
  • Already being used (Score:5, Informative)

    by Yold ( 473518 ) on Thursday July 15, 2010 @12:59PM (#32915464)

    I was a research assistance for a study conducted in 2007, which surveyed the usage of Telemedicine in Minnesota. [], (be kind, it was my first web application ever, and it has since been broken by the people maintaining it).

    The primary usage, IIRC, was for psychiatric health. In particular, mental health facilities in northern Minnesota seemed to favor this approach; it is much cheaper to employ councilors and "out-source" a MD rather than have a full-time psychiatrist on staff.

    Telemedicine may be more cost-effective, but IMHO it will probably be abused and doctors (like radiologists), whom are already very busy, will be pushed even harder. Computer-Aided-Diagonsis tools, like those in existence for detecting microcalcifications in breast tissue, will become essential. Over-worked doctors miss things, and sometimes a computerized second opinion can improve the quality of diagnoses while holding down costs.

    DISCLAIMER: I am not in the medical industry, but I did some research as an undergrad on the things mentioned above.

    • The primary usage, IIRC, was for psychiatric health. In particular, mental health facilities in northern Minnesota seemed to favor this approach; it is much cheaper to employ councilors and "out-source" a MD rather than have a full-time psychiatrist on staff.

      This appears to be the 'state of the art' as far as telemedicine goes. Essentially a videophone with some measure of security. w00t. It's hard to get excited about this from a technology standpoint. It's been used for years in a few areas and works

  • Call center doctors (Score:5, Informative)

    by Animats ( 122034 ) on Thursday July 15, 2010 @01:21PM (#32915838) Homepage

    Someone suggested that insurance companies might direct their customers to call center doctors in third-world countries. That's already happening. This is the real world of "telemedicine". This is a real ad:

    Doctors needed for a Call Center Jobs in Pakistan []

    MBBS [] Doctors needed to work in our Call Center

    • Should be flexible to work in Night Shifts & be able to communicate with foreign patients (Excellent Spoken English Skills required)
    • Lucrative Salary package
    • Final Year MBBS students can also apply

    Contact: Mr. Aftab Ibrahim (
    Mr. Wasif Balouch Ashrafi (
    Or Call on 021-34549291 - 021-34529748

  • Irony check? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ErikTheRed ( 162431 ) on Thursday July 15, 2010 @01:27PM (#32915958) Homepage

    Am I the only one who grasped the dissonance between the words "comes into its own" and "$795 million in grants." Have we really stooped to the point where people have mentally redefined success and functionality as the ability to successfully lobby the government for cash?

    You keep using those words. I do not think they mean what you think they mean.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 15, 2010 @01:37PM (#32916166)

    I've been a developer on a Telemedicine project for the last 4.5 years. One thing that really surprised me was just how much money can be saved by using telemed.

    Ear tubes are a great example, where I live there is a high incidence of ear tubes in young children. The surgery to install the ear tubes are only a part of the overall total cost. One of the biggest costs if follow up care. So the patient and a guardian travels a great distance to the hospital for a 15 minute appointment to have the doc say that everything is OK. Total direct cost for that is upwards of $3000 (airfare, hotel, per diem), that doesn't count lost wages for the guardian.

    Using telemed, the patient goes into the local clinic, they snap a few pics of the tympanic membrane using a video otoscope and the health aide sends that information to the doctor for review. Total cost to the patient, about 15-30 minutes.

    I've posted this anonymously for a couple of reasons, the biggest being I don't want readers to think I'm stumping or trying to spam my employer.

  • I work for a small mental health company in Utah that serves 3 counties. When we setup our telemedicine system we significantly reduced our costs. We no longer have to pay as much for travel and hotels for our doctors, they just see clients over telemed no matter which county they are in. Their workload hasn't increased much but now they spend less time traveling and more time with clients. Our clients aren't weirded out by fact they are talking to a tv and camera because the cameras are very high quality a

  • I'm sure that's exactly what the new broadband network is for. You know, 'cuz that makes so much sense. WTFoftheWTFs?!?!?!???!!!1

  • by flyingfsck ( 986395 ) on Thursday July 15, 2010 @02:42PM (#32917254)

    I have worked in multiple places with one thing in common: Gawdawful ridiculously expensive video conference systems. We are a bunch of engineers and we cannot get the fscking things to work, so how would a bunch of doctors manage with it?

    In contrast, the cheap/free Skype works without any issues.

    • I was wondering about that, too. International scientific collaborations use it without problems (although CERN recently cooked up an in-house system that apparently doesn't work as well).

  • Back in the 90's, I talked to the people who were setting this system up between Russia and the US. It was a NASA project using the TDRS satellites. The guys that I talked to had RED passports (diplomatic immunity?).
  • The Ontario Telemedicine Network (OTN) is one of the largest telemedicine networks in the world. Using two-way videoconferencing, OTN provides access to care for patients in every hospital and hundreds of other health care locations across the province. In addition to clinical care, we facilitate the delivery of distance education and meetings for health care professionals and patients. []

Experience varies directly with equipment ruined.