Telemedicine helping make healthcare more accessible in rural communities

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telemedicineTelemedicine is proving its value in extending health services access across the Big Bend, even if Florida lags behind other states in taking advantage of the technology. Telemedicine is helping make healthcare more accessible in rural communities across the United States.

Providing services to outlying areas was one of the topics Wednesday at the Health Sciences & Human Performance Enhancement Roundtable of the Economic Development Council of Tallahassee-Leon County. Officials at Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare emphasized their commitment to push ahead with their telemedicine plans.

“It’s coming whether we want it to or not,” said Lauren Faison, the TMH administrator working in regional development, population health and telemedicine. “We have embraced it as a very efficient and effective way to push out some of our resources to our surrounding communities.”

Using secure communications networks, doctors throughout the country are providing services via their computers to see and interview patients remotely, examine x-rays or MRI reports and prescribe treatments just as they would if the patients traveled here to the physicians’ offices. Doctors perform these services as part of telemedicine networks, such as with AllyHealth’s service provider, MDLIVE. AllyHealth members get free consultations, anytime, anywhere for them and their family members as a benefit of membership.

The technology is an especially valuable convenience for people in rural areas who don’t have access to sub-specialty care and in some cases, even primary care, said Dr. Dean Watson, TMH’s chief medical officer.

Besides better access to medical care, telemedicine is improving outcomes for patients and is helping lower costs, especially for high-risk patients. In stroke intervention, where response time to the patient’s condition is critical, Faison said a physician here can see the patient, view test results and determine a treatment long before the person can be transported to the hospital here.

Watson noted that followup care has improved with telemedicine, with the number of readmissions to the hospital declining as a result.

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