Telemedicine is the transmission of medical knowledge and expertise from a distance.
Nowadays the capabilities of technology are so great that telemedicine enables the transmission of real-time video, bio-signals like ecg or eeg and images either static or dynamic such as x-rays, ultrasound videos, skin lesions, endoscopic images.
When we examine a patient via telemedicine it may be almost the same as if we actually had the patient in front of us in our surgery. We have the opportunity to cooperate with the doctor who is at the remote site and get the major part of the entire clinical picture.
Telemedicine can be used both with adults and children.
The electronic stethoscope is a fabulous tool. It stores sounds and transmits them to a computer via Bluetooth. Then these files can be transferred via telemedicine to the central station, where specialists can hear exactly what the remote doctor heard.
Examinations like spirogram which evaluates the function of the respiratory system, produce graphs and numerical data, which can be easily transferred via telemedicine.
A large part of the entire clinical information comes from palpation. It sounds strange to say that we can palpate a person from a distance. However in emergency cases and in the majority of the clinical cases the information which we are looking for when we palpate a patient is so general that it is possible to be acquired with the cooperation of a person, either doctor or medical assistant, who is physically present at the remote site.
Ultrasonography has the peculiarity that it is very much dependent on the person who performs the examination. It is not a group of static images but a dynamic sequence of images produced by manipulations of the ultrasound probe on the patient’s body. However a well trained doctor or technician, even if he is not an imaging specialist, can perform the examination following standard protocols and transmit the examination for diagnosis to a specialist via telemedicine.
Telemedicine allows the doctor who is at the central station to discuss together with the doctor who is at the remote site, the patient, and any relatives as if all of them were together in the same room.
Various digital cameras can give us reliable pictures from natural cavities of the body.
In pediatrics the child’s appearance is most important for diagnosis. How it reacts, how it sits, how it grabs the toy that is offered to it, how it smiles, how it cries. This information can be easily acquired via telemedicine.
Technology has given to us all these fabulous capabilities and it will go on giving us even more. It’s up to us now to use them for the benefit of the patient.