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

(Page 1 of 3)

During the past decade, more and more people have been able to avoid physically going into work by telecommuting from their home computer. Medicine has taken a cue from this growing trend by combining telecommunications technology and medicine to create telemedicine and telehealthcare. While healthcare professionals have always communicated with one another over the telephone, telemedicine kicks things up a notch by utilizing sophisticated satellite technology to broadcast consultations between healthcare professionals who are oceans apart or only a few miles away. Videoconferencing equipment and robotic technology have helped to make doctor’s offices and medical facilities as close to one another as the nearest computer screen.

There are two popular types of technology used for telemedicine applications. The first of these is called “store and forward” which is used for transferring digital images from one location to another. A healthcare professional takes a picture of a subject or an area of concern with a digital camera. The information on the digital camera is “stored” and then “forwarded” by computer to another computer at a different location. This type of technology is utilized for non-emergent situations, when there’s time for a diagnosis or consultation to be made, usually within 24 to 48 hours, with the findings then sent back. The most common use of store and forward technology is with teleradiology, where x-rays, CT scans, and MRIs can be sent from within the same facility, between two buildings in the same city, or from one location to another anywhere in the world. There are hundreds of medical centers, clinics, and individual physicians who use some form of teleradiology. Many radiologists are even installing appropriate computer technology within their own homes, allowing them access to images sent directly to them for diagnosis, eliminating an unnecessary and possibly time-consuming trip back into to a hospital or clinic. Telepathology is also another common use of this type of technology, with images of pathology slides sent from one location to another for diagnostic consultation. Dermatology is one area that greatly benefits from the store and forward technology, with digital images of different skin conditions taken and sent to a dermatologist for diagnosis.

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