As the demand for content on the Web grows exponentially, we are seeing a corresponding increase in opportunities for the healthcare world to provide services and information for patients/consumers. Phrases such as “high speed” and “3G” are entering mainstream discussions of accessing the Web, especially as more people connect from their mobile devices and laptops. According to the Pew Internet Project, in 2009 63% of adult Americans acquired broadband internet connections at home, up 15% from the previous year. Having high speed access is quickly becoming something less of a privilege and more of priority in many places around the country and the world.
With these improvements in technology, the healthcare industry has a great opportunity to provide services to patients and consumers that previously were unthinkable. Virginia area based physician and president of the American Telemedicine Association, Dr. Karen Rheuban has been an advocate for increased adoption of broadband capabilities to improve telemedicine in the healthcare world. “We clearly recognized that it’s a lot easier for us to be there all the time using technology”, she says in a recent interview. As technology continues to allow us to be more mobile and connected, there are a couple ways that e-Medicine is being put into action as defined by the ATA:
Telemedicine is the use of medical information exchanged from one site to another via electronic communications to improve patients’ health status. Closely associated with telemedicine is the term “telehealth,” which is often used to encompass a broader definition of remote healthcare that does not always involve clinical services. Videoconferencing, transmission of still images, e-health including patient portals, remote monitoring of vital signs, continuing medical education and nursing call centers are all considered part of telemedicine and telehealth.
Looking at these various uses of technology for the health/medical landscape, it’s easy to see how broadband access can improve the services. One of the discussions going on now is how a doctor can diagnose or consult with a patient via the Web through video conference capabilities being developed. In places where a doctor cannot always get to a patient in a timely fashion, this may be an alternative solution. As a matter of fact, the FCC is helping to put together a Rural Health Care pilot program that will look into the use of broadband connectivity focused on healthcare in rural and urban areas. Among the uses that this could bring include: clinical care, consumer health education, public health delivery and implementing electronic medical records. Nearly 3 years ago Black Web 2.0 wrote a blog post entitled Doctor 2.0. The brief article gave a quick overview of a Brooklyn based doctor who not only made house and office calls, he also corresponded with patients via video conference, texting, and Instant Messenger.
The future is here and it’s not just Internet savvy teens taking advantage of it. It’s your doctor too.