About Telemedicine and Telehealth

Imagine being in physical pain and having to spend hours in a car or plane because the nearest medical specialist is hundreds of miles away.

Telehealth is using technology to provide medical care over distance and it is improving healthcare for people everyday.

It allows physicians and health care specialists to diagnose and treat patients over distances – whether that span is across a street, a city, a region or an ocean. Telehealth can prevent uncomfortable delays, high travel expenses and family separation by bringing specialized medical care directly to the people who need it. It is being practiced in rural areas, school districts, home-health settings, nursing homes, cruise ships, and on NASA space missions.

Telemedicine typically involves physicians using interactive video and/or store-and-forward consultations to treat patients. Interactive video allows medical specialists to directly communicate with their patients who are in another location, using television monitors and specially adapted equipment. Store-and-Forward techniques include physicians sending pictures, x-rays, and other patient information directly to the computer of a specialist. After reviewing that information, the specialist then sends the diagnosis back to the local doctor, who treats the patients and provides follow-up care.

Recently, the term telehealth has risen as a favorable expansion upon the word telemedicine; telehealth includes non-clinical services such as medical education or research.

Telehealth is a topic that you'll be hearing more about in the future. The following are valuable resources for getting aquatinted with the field of telehealth:

What is Telemedicine

A well written article by Nancy Brown MLS, of the Telemedicine Research Center, that is an excellent introduction to telehealth.

Telemedicine Service Provider Develops Telecare Based Same Day Breast Cancer Diagnosis

UltraClinics, a telemedicine application service provider company based in Tucson, Arizona, and a spin-off company of the University of Arizona, has developed a process that drastically reduces the time it takes for breast care. During a single breast clinic visit, a woman can have a breast biopsy performed, receive a written laboratory report, and meet with a specialist by video-conferencing for breast cancer treatment planning, all in a single day. Previously, this multi-step process took anywhere from a week to over a month in many health care systems.

With the UltraClinics patent-pending process, the on-site biopsy and tissue processing are completed in a few hours. The biopsy glass slides are electronically scanned into digital image files using a DMetrix virtual slide scanner. A telepathologist at a service center, which can be located at any location with secure Internet access, examines the virtual slides at a computer workstation and immediately generates a diagnosis. If the diagnosis is cancer, the woman consults with a breast cancer specialist by video conferencing for treatment planning. Same day second opinions will be available from a panel of expert specialists using telepathology.

“The UltraClinics. process eliminates the agony women currently experience having to wait for a written laboratory report after having a biopsy and, if necessary, waiting to see a surgeon or oncologist,” according to Ronald S. Weinstein, M.D., Chairman of UltraClinics. “UltraClinics facilities can do it in a single day clinical visit,” said Weinstein. The UltraClinics process was implemented at University Physician Hospital in Tucson in 2005. “Patients have been more than pleased with the convenience and accuracy of the UltraClinics process,” according to Gail Barker, Ph.D., President of UltraClinics. “We envision the creation of a national UltraClinics service network. Timeliness of service should become an important measure of quality in health care,” said Barker.

“The UltraClinics process can make same-day breast care available to hundreds of thousands of women,” according to Weinstein, who is also founding Director of the national award-winning Arizona Telemedicine Program and Professor and Head of the Department of Pathology at the University of Arizona College of Medicine in Tucson, Arizona. Since 2001, the Arizona Telemedicine Program has hosted a highly regarded rapid digital telemammography service that has benefited thousands of women in rural Arizona residing up to 400 miles from the College of Medicine. These patients receive their written digital mammography reports in less than 90 minutes, before they leave their local imaging centre. The Arizona Telemedicine Program has also provided thousands of telepathology second opinion consultations for patients at small hospitals. Clinical studies have shown that the diagnostic accuracy is excellent.

In 1998, the Arizona Telemedicine Program’s senior management team established the first telehealth application service provider (ASP) organization, in the public sector. Currently, 55 independent health care organizations pay annual membership fees and use the Arizona Telemedicine Program ASP’s broad range of customized services. Over 250,000 patients have received telehealth services over the Arizona Telemedicine Program network. The same senior management team has now founded UltraClinics which takes the telehealth ASP business model into the private sector for the first time.

(Source: Wireless Healthcare, January 26, 2006)

Japanese Improve Multilingual Services in Hospitals

In contrast to our last story, where the UK Government were trying to cut back on the number of foreigners using the UK’s hospitals – here’s a story from Japan.

It was initially on the Japanese State media which you can’t access online without using a site like this. It’s now been released to global press services in English presumably as a PR exercise.

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Japan is aiming to make it’s health and medical centres more accessible to visitors ahead of the 2020 Olympic Games which are being held there. The project is being scoped in the current years budget and is expected to cost around 146 million Yen to complete.

The main focus is of course language, and the idea is to train medical interpreters who will be assigned to the major medical centers. It is hoped to have translation facilities for a variety of languages including English, Spanish, Chinese etc.

Their role would extend slightly beyond just translation including such tasks as taking payment or directing patients to specific treatments when prescribed.

It has long been considered a problem with tourists the lack of translation services. However ministers are keen to help another sector of the community. Japan has many long term residents living in Japan who all pay medical insurance and as such are covered by the Japanese Health Service.

Many visitors in need of health care often head for Singapore where there it is much easier to get treatment for non native speakers with English widely spoken for instance. Also some people travel even further, using such software to arrange treatment in somewhere like Australia

Independent Report Points to NHS Savings

Last year an independent report was commissioned looking at ways that the NHS could save money whilst still maintaining services. One of the most noticeable findings was the fact that they estimated that nearly £500 million could be recovered from Non-UK citizens who use the services every year.

These groups who consist of tourists, overseas visitors and health care migrants cost the NHS around £2 billion every year. Although the report suggested that a large proportion of these payments were unavoidable there was certainly scope to recover some – approximately $500 million as mentioned above.

The methods used to recover some of this money include recovering the money from other countries in Europe and a levy placed on Non-EU nationals and temporary residents. The United Kingdom has reciprocal agreements with many nations where health care is provided and then the cost is reclaimed from those countries – British people travelling can do the same. However the systems put in place to recover this money are not very efficient and much goes unclaimed.

The Government are already tackling parts of these issues – a levy is being imposed on migrants from outside the European Economic areas for anyone who is staying between 6 months and 5 years. This alone is expected to raise something like £200 million ever year. Also a special unit is being put in place to help individual hospitals claw back money form other countries. Often the knowledge and skills to do this is not available to specific hospitals particularly smaller ones.

The one area of particular concern is to try and prevent Health Tourism where individuals come to this country for the sole reason of getting treatment from the NHS. This is strictly prohibited but it is difficult to prove that this has happened and hence difficult to estimate the amounts involved. There obviously has to be some care that genuine refugees and asylum seekers are not excluded by such measures. Many people fleeing countries often cannot communicate before hand – in countries such as Iran you have to be very careful how you use the internet for example – even using a proxy to access basic webpages and stuff like facebook – this link explains.

Additional Citation: Information

Travel Insurance is a Must

The wonderful human body is both complex and on the whole for most us a very reliable thing. But often travel is a time when it might start letting us down, for some very simple reasons. One of the most obvious is that you are exposing your immune system to a lot of things that it’s not simply used to oping with.

Of course there is always the possibilities of accidents too, that small cut or scrape may be insignificant at home. However if you cut your leg in a fall in a hot or muggy country then it’s surprising how often these can turn into an infection for the traveller. This doesn’t have to be serious though and with Telehealth services and of course a decent travel insurance policy the majority of ‘health scares’ can be dealt with quickly and efficiently. Much of the time it won’t even change your holiday at least for minor ailments.

If you’re not sure whether you need to take increased precautions abroad, take a look at the insects in your garden – then take a look at those in your destination. There’s every chance that they’ll be very different – a simple mosquito bite may have little effect on a local who’s been bitten thousands of times before but there is a much bigger risk to foreigners of contracting something like malaria or encephalitis.

It’s always worth investing in travel insurance wherever you go, even safer European countries all have many different rules and regulations for accessing health care, insurance means you’ll be able to get access. I recently was watching a new broadcast on Prosieben – the German TV channel and an American fell very ill and was faced with tens of thousands of pounds in medical bills because he had no cover. It makes you think, by the way checking out a country’s TV stations before you visit is a great way of getting the feel of a country. I did have to use a German proxy server though to access Prosieben as it blocks access from and American IP address unfortunately.

More info on the BBC/Security program is – here.

Health Care in France

Ever wanted to live abroad for a little while and experience a different lifestyle? Well there’s plenty of options when you get older and have some more freedom – both social and financial. However the one issue that becomes more important in later life is accessible health care. In the US there is an extensive and wide variety of health care options available, it of course has it’s faults but providing you have the resources or adequate insurance the health care is as good as anywhere in the world. How does this work in other countries.

Well let’s take France for an example, it’s a country that many in the US promote as a model for universal health care. Depending on what reports you read, France has possibly the best health care system in the world – this is from WHO (World Health Organisation). The same organisation ranks the US health care system at position 37.

The French system scores well in a variety of key areas -

  • Universal coverage
  • Responsive Health Care
  • Freedom of Choice for Patients
  • General Health and Life Expectancy Figures

The system actually works in some ways in a very similar way to the US system. Both private and government insurance finance the system. Individuals receive their health cover through their employers, whereas the Government pays for unemployed and non-working individuals. This doesn’t quite pay the bill though and self employed have to pay more than workers plus additional taxes are levied against alcohol and similar.

There’s no doubt that people would be well looked after in France, every legal resident is entitled to the same treatment. Visitors may access the health care system after a certain period and eligibility requirements.

So it might be a good place to go and live for a while in retirement as there are many health care options. Other advantages are of course, fantastic food and now the internet has enabled you to even take your home luxuries with you. It’s worth learning some basics in French before you go, there are lots of basic course available in bookshops. Use the internet to perhaps watch some French TV Online before you go too, watching the Simpsons dubbed into French is great for boosting vocabulary.

Health Care and Travelling

Most of us like to travel, but health care is of course normally one of the major concerns. Different food, different climates and varying standards of hygiene make even a simple holiday quite a challenge to our health especially those with some underlying health issues.

There is also likely to be another issue, that of language barriers which can make accessing advice difficult for even the simplest health issues. I remember once struggling in a pharmacy in downtown Cairo for some time trying to get some medication for my hayfever. The request was simple – just antihistermine, which would always solve my problems – but the language barrier made this extremely difficult. What’s more of a worry is that sometimes you don’t even know what you’re taking with a label in a language you don’t speak.

But know after some years of travelling, I have come up with a checklist of things that make my holidays more enjoyable. Nothing fancy just simple things I have put in place to make my holidays more relaxing. One of the simple, practical steps is to make sure that I have some way of accessing the internet. There are many reasons for this including giving me access to watch BBC Iplayer in Spain, enabling me to book and pay for tickets, keep tabs on my holiday spending and a host of others. But perhaps most importantly it gives me access to someone who can give me medical advice when I need it.

Of course when this is linked in with a decent travel insurance policy you really can relax. An answer to urgent health problems is at hand and with the right insurance, the resources to arrange whatever is needed. For those with health issues this can be of huge relief especially if you’ve found yourself in a difficult situation in the past. Travellers 20 years ago didn’t have the advantages of Telehealth and the internet, I for one am very glad we have now.

Telehealth – More than Telemedicine

The two terms Telehealth and Telemedicine are related although not quite the same. Telehealth has a broader definition encompassing preventative medicine as well as the stricter definition of Telemedicine which only deals with curative aspects. So while transmission of medical images could be described as either Telehealth or Telemedicine, a video conference discussing the latest reserarch in a particular field would be Telehealth but not Telemedicine.

Being able to access the internet more easily is helping to spread the Telehealth ethos. More and more companies are popping up to offer innovative online services. Considering the high costs of healthcare in the U.S, more affordable options are always welcome.

The internet provides countless opportunities for the general public to do their own health research. At the same time, there is so much conflicting information available that it can be hard to discover the truth. Anyone with a blog and a book to sell can now start promoting the craziest of health beliefs online. Nutritional scientists have far better things to do with their time than to enter into debate with fringe bloggers. However the end result can be a massive distortion in what members of the public see as good health advice.

One only has to take a look around you to realize that there are many people throughout the country who are obviously not eating a healthy diet. Prevention is better than cure so why not take this advice to heart – An apple a day keeps the doctor away.

To discover more about the best kitchen health appliances, in other words, juicers, this link seems to provide honest advice: http://www.applelaneinn.com/best-juicer/

New Project Uses Telemedicine To Reduce Hospital Stays

According to an article published CNET News, a British telemedicine project has halved the time patients spend in the hospital by enabling doctors to monitor their condition remotely. Carlisle Housing Association and the Carlisle and District Primary Care Trust wanted to reduce the length of hospital stays for patients and increase the independence of patients by giving them more information about their condition. Using the system to manage chronic respiratory diseases, doctors in Carlisle have managed to reduce hospital stays for some patients from 10 days to 5.5 days.

The project involves giving telemedicine monitors to patients, thus allowing them to measure their own temperature, heart rate, breathing rate, electrocardiogram and blood pressure. These results are sent via a phone line to a secure server, where they are saved as an electronic patient record, which can then be accessed by doctors or nurses.

The system can monitor diseases such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, which currently costs the United Kingdom’s National Health Service about $1.44 billion (818 million pounds) per year.