Friday, February 8, 2008

Telemedicine Ponderings

Back in November, the FCC granted a total of $417 million to fund high-speed network connections to rural communities around the country that don't have access to medical specialists.

Out here, the University of Utah's School of Medicine, with its over 1000 specialists, serves an area that spans four states and over 500 miles. Last night, I heard some touching stories about the progress in telemedicine, which includes saving millions and millions of commuter miles and associated greenhouse gases.

I heard about stroke victims getting world-class consults at rural emergency rooms and getting meds prescribed within the critical window of time that prevents brain damage from clots. I heard about children with burns who are being treated in their hometowns -- without enduring long and traumatic transports to Salt Lake City to see burn specialists.

And, a particularly sweet story was about a father serving in Iraq who was able to see his baby girl being born via secure videoconference from his hometown hospital in Utah.

The stories made me think of my dad. I remember my dad's decision to move back to the states from Mexico. He had this lovely home overlooking the Pacific ocean but it was a bit remote and he felt like he was too far from a good medical center and emergency services. Little did he know that the county hospital in Camden, SC would be scarcely any better, even if closer to his home.

Experts in telemedicine believe that the driver for expansion to telehealth networks will increasingly be consumers, who want more choice not only in where they live but also in who treats them.

As I learned more about the FCC's recent grants (69 applicants around the country received funding for their Rural Health Pilot Programs), I began to ponder the need for access to one of those most rare specialties -- good integrative medicine practitioners.

I'm interested in learning more about how integrative practitioners can be leveraged in mainstream care through the telemedicine network, which continues to expand around the country with help from the FCC.

Coincidentally, Dr. Rodier sent me a note last night about his willingness to do group as well as individual telephone consults for our members.

My question to you is whether you would value being on a group consultation call with Dr. Rodier? Drop me a line if you have comments.

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