Telemedicine, or the use of medical information exchanged from one site to another via electronic communications to improve patient’s health status, is a way that scarce physician resources may be extended to meet patient demand for services. Telemedicine was initially conceptualized and created to extend the reach of medical expertise. Its continued improvement and application is a viable alternative to physically present physician consultation in rural and underserved communities.
It is evident that the maldistribution of physician resources places a disproportionate burden on rural and underserved communities. The current proposed solutions may take decades to fully implement if they succeed at all. A more immediate solution is needed to address the physician shortage issues. The recent progress in telecommunication technology along with new commitments and national policies regarding technology infrastructure are paving the way for many rural communities to access services that previously was impossible. This creates a greater potential for the redistribution of physician resources via telemedicine resources and infrastructure.
Although telemedicine has been around since the early 20th century in some form, or fashion it is becoming better positioned now to have an impact on health services delivery than ever before. The implementation of electronic health records, computerized physician order entry and electronic medical records, continue to improve the telemedicine physician’s ability to provide care that is well accepted by patients, family members and medical staff. And in turn deliver care that is timely, efficient, patient centered and equitable.
Richard B. Sanders, MPH
Director, Telemedicine Services
Eagle Hospital Physicians