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Promise of Telemedicine gets closer with new tools

Posted Monday, October 17, 2016 by Tyler Goldberg-Hoss

If you haven’t yet heard, telemedicine is here to stay. Telemedicine – the use of technology to provide clinical health care from a distance – is growing and changing, and the ability to get medical care remotely is increasing with increasing technological advances.

Some types of medical care lend themselves to remote care. Radiologists often interpret scans from miles (and miles and miles) away from the patient. In Washington, stroke neurologists in Seattle can consult on patients in other counties that don’t have stroke neurologists, using technology and other health care providers on site to work with stroke patients.

However, diagnosing and treating patients who are not already in a health care setting has been challenging, since doctors have not had access to clinical findings that might help them make a diagnosis and treatment plan. So far, doctors cannot reach through your i-pad to press a stethoscope up to your chest and have you take a deep breath, nor able to push your tongue down with a depressor to look into the back of your throat.

Not yet anyway, but new gadgets promise to close the gap between information a doctor can get from you in her exam room, and information they can get from you while you are in your living room.

Companies are manufacturing devices that can give doctors such information. Tyto has created a device about the size of a softball. It includes attachments like stethoscopes, a built in camera to look in a patient’s mouth and ear, and a high resolution camera to take photos of suspicious lesions, rashes and moles.

Another company, MedWand, has a gadget that will do many of the things the Tyto device can do, and also checks blood pressure, blood glucose, and blood oxygen levels.

Scanadu has a similar product nearing the market, and is also working on disposable urine-analysis tests that can be used at home, with results sent to a health care provider who may be cities (or counties, or states, or countries) away.

Access to care has been and will likely continue to be a large challenge facing our society. These devices may help to help with this problem. As a medical negligence attorney, certainly the hope is that systems are in place to assess the quality of the medical information being sent electronically, and that medical providers who are interpreting such data have sufficient time and resources to make sound clinical decisions, including having the patient come in to see a real life doctor, ARNP or PA if necessary.

And, when problems do arise, and patients are hurt due to mistakes within the system, that there is sufficient insurance to pay for the harms that result. I can foresee significant jurisdictional issues when a radiologist in another state (or another country) fails to see an important finding, and as a result someone is catastrophically harmed or dies. In such a circumstance, it is my hope that regulations are in place that allow for the health care provider or system in question to be held accountable in the state in which the patient resides.

You can read an article outlining these new gadgets here:

New Gadgets That Could Give Telemedicine a Boost

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