Telemedicine: Virtual Check-ups

Technology has been shaping the health care industry for years, and will continue to do so with increasing magnitude. First, there were in-home medical monitoring systems. Now? There’s doctor-patient visits via two-way video.

The New York Times recently posted a great article about this telemedicine innovation. Companies like NuPhysica have embraced video technologies, building practices that allow patients to be virtually “seen” by a doctor, regardless of where he or she is in the world. And this trend is catching on: corporations like Cisco Systems are running developmental trials of these video check-ins, and insurance companies like UnitedHealth Group and Blue Cross/ Blue Shield have begun to market these services to big employers. In fact, Datamonitor predicts the telemedicine industry will grow to more than $500 million in revenue this year in North America alone.

This opens up a new world for health care providers. If a patient is out of town or too sick to physically come into the office, he or she can still be seen using these technologies. This could ultimately make physician care and treatment more accessible to the general public, and may encourage more patients to seek professional diagnosis.

But there are obvious drawbacks to these virtual health appointments. Will they provide the same quality attention as an in-person visit? Will these virtual check-ups, notably more convenient than physical meetings, supplant in-person check-ups? And though though virtual communication may be helpful in diagnosing smaller health issues, how will doctors be able to test for more serious and intricate ailments?

What do you think about these innovations? Do you think they’ll be helpful in making health care more accessible, or will they simply open up the industry (and patients) to more risks?


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