Telehealth is back on radar screens of policy makers, health care professionals, engineers and marketers. As we rethink healthcare economics and delivery systems, technology advances are enabling new approaches and better execution of old approaches. Telehealth can enable healthcare access for underserved populations including rural areas, inner city areas, isolated regions, developing countries, and prisons.
Telepresence creates new opportunities for virtual consultations to approximate face-to-face encounters between providers and patients and among providers. Tandberg and Polycom, established vendors in telehealth, now offer telepresence for healthcare. Polycom announced last month at the American Telemedicine Association 14th Annual Meeting and Exposition that the Michigan Department of Corrections is using Polycom telepresence for everything from tele-psychiatry to tele-nephrology. Cisco’s Internet Business Solutions Group has developed HealthPresence, which combines Cisco TelePresence with patient health data captured by connected medical devices such as stethoscopes and vital signs monitors.
In the late 1990’s, I conducted research in telehealth and wrote the “Personal Telemedicine” column for Telemedicine Today magazine. The magazine allowed me to write about every aspect of telehealth with an emphasis on how the tools and delivery mechanisms impact people. The name of the column played off my first book, Personal Videoconferencing (Manning/Prentice Hall, 1996). Since many of the telehealth topics I researched then are now re-emerging, I’ll share one column that’s still available online. It’s called "Twenty Minutes in the Life of a Tele-Home Health Nurse," which appeared in the December, 1997 issue of Telemedicine Today. You can read the column here.