Telemedicine booming in video conferencing industry

Thursday, December 2 2010

The healthcare reform law has forced many medical managers and physicians to think creatively in how they care for patients as costs continue to rise and more people seek medical attention.

To fill this need, telemedicine is treating more patients, according to the St. Petersburg Times. The technology is nothing new, but has recently experienced a surge in importance as healthcare providers look to reach out to more patients while still reducing costs.

Telemedicine is mostly reserved for treating common conditions, such as pink-eye and bronchitis, and managing chronic conditions. Healthcare providers dispense care through video conferencing, email or the telephone.

Acceptance by insurance companies for telemedicine is increasing, reports the Times. Medicare and Medicaid now reimburse providers for certain types of care through telemedicine, and many companies include it in employee benefits packages as a way to reduce overall health costs.

"It's the wave of the future," Dr. Carmen Alfonso told the newspaper.

One of the world's first - and most extreme - telemedicine cases occurred in 1999 when Jerri Nielsen, an emergency room physician from Ohio working at the South Pole, discovered a lump in her breast. Because the Antarctic winter had set in, it was too dangerous to airlift her out for treatment, so through consultations via video conference and email, she administered her own hormone injections and intravenous chemotherapy, writes the Washington Post.