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Understanding Telemedicine
By Peter P. Giacalone

(Page 1 of 2)

In 2005, the U.S. witnessed hurricanes, tornadoes and earthquakes, among many other natural disasters. In Mother Nature’s furor, more than two million lives were destroyed, forcing many to recognize the limitations of emergency and medical care services – especially in rural areas.

Throughout American history, no amount of advanced warning has been able to prevent natural disasters from destroying rural areas. The Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 left 700,000 people homeless throughout rural areas in Arkansas, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi and Tennessee. And, even after the development of telecommunications and transportation networks over seven decades later, Hurricane Katrina battered many of those same communities, leaving 1.5 million people without homes or prompt medical care.

Following Hurricane Katrina, more than 1,200 senior citizens living in rural areas died because of a lack of medical attention. They included many elderly, disabled and medically-challenged residents who fled or wanted to flee, but faced the challenges of finding medical care as their local response teams struggled to respond to such a daunting crisis.

Such individuals, often poor and jobless, rarely hit the radar of the public consciousness. Only through devastation does the American public take notice and demand their leaders do something to help these individuals.

Today, many disabled and sick individuals living in rural areas struggle, even without the wake of a natural disaster. Without doctors or nurses nearby, it is difficult for rural residents to access emergency responders or even caregivers who can monitor them for easily preventable diseases, major health conditions or day-to-day well-being.

The solution to serve these communities is telemedicine — technologies that provide long distance home health care that is priceless to many pregnant women, terminally ill people and others with disabilities who require remote home monitoring to safeguard their health.

In recent years, there have been a number of advances that have pulled technology into the home health care arena, making the possibilities for improvement endless. The most remarkable of which is telemedicine — an affordable, in-home health monitoring system already popular in Scandinavian countries.

Imagine life though telemedicine: You wake up, roll out of bed and stand on a floor mat that automatically takes your weight. You then walk to the bathroom to wash your face. With the touch of a faucet, your temperature is instantly taken.

Meanwhile, doctors and nurses on the other side of the country are receiving your vital statistics to monitor your health. While you may live in a rural community, some 50 miles from the nearest hospital, doctors can use telemedicine for emergency alerts, medication reminders, long-term disease management, and monitoring such conditions as diabetes, cardio-pulmonary condition, asthma and pregnancy.

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