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Busting Through the Barriers to Care

How Mobile Technology Is Changing the Face of Medicine 2 BY JOSPEH KIM T

HE AMERICAN Telemedicine Association (ATA) defines telemedicine technology as “the use of medical information exchanged from one site

to another via electronic communications to improve patients’ health status.”

As mobile technology becomes more affordable, the

healthcare industry is buzzing about applications that bring together mobile health and telemedicine. Physicians and other healthcare professionals are using mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets to engage other healthcare professionals and patients in the evolving world of telemedicine and interactive audiovisual media.

Delivering Real Care in Real-Time In the past, traditional telemedicine was limited

to physicians who had access to videoconferencing equipment. Major medical centers had videoconferencing equipment to correspond with rural hospitals that lack access to medical specialists. Though limited, this was quite effective.

In May 2011, for example, the University of Arkansas

for Medical Sciences (UAMS) earned a national award for its use of broadband technology to provide healthcare to rural Arkansans. In 2009, the UAMS Antenatal & Neonatal Guidelines, Education, and Learning System, or ANGELS, conducted nearly 2100 telemedicine consultations and facilitated more than 1000 high-risk maternal transports.

Today, though, physicians who have a mobile device

equipped with a built-in camera have the capability to engage other physicians and patients using photos and real-time video streams. As a result, this mobile interaction is opening new ways for physicians to engage in telemedicine through the use of rich multimedia.

If a mother wanted to speak to on-call physician about a child’s rash, she used to have a dialogue such as this:

MOTHER: Doctor, I’m calling because my child has a rash on his back.

DOCTOR: How large is the rash? Is it raised? Is it blotchy?

MOTHER: Well, I just see a bunch of raised red dots all over his back.

DOCTOR: How big are the dots? Do the dots have white centers? Are they all the same size?

MOTHER: The dots don’t have white centers. The biggest dot is about the size of a dime.

DOCTOR: Does the child have the rash anywhere else?

MOTHER: He has a few red spots developing on his arms and legs, but they look different.

DOCTOR: How do they look different?

MOTHER: I’m not sure, they just look different. The rash on the arms and legs are not as red…

“What did we do before parents had iPhones that

took pictures of their children’s maladies that could be forwarded to you day and night? It really does come in handy for a visual of skin related rashes and infections,” Sue Hubbard, M.D., wrote in a recent post on The Kid’s Doctor. Mobile technology also allows hospital physicians to monitor patients en route to the hospital while paramedics send patient information from the ambulance.

Advances in modern telecommunication technology are

facilitating patient-provider communication. This, in turn, is empowering patients. In the example above, the mother can send photos and videos of her child’s rashes or other lesions to the on-call physician, who no longer has to ask the mother to describe the rash as red, raised, blotchy, and so on. This leads to a more accurate diagnosis.


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