Telemedicine: The Future House Call?

Very interesting article on the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, here, which either “bigs up” telemedicine’s part a bit much or provides a vision of the future.  The positioning statement for the article is that by using a webcam and the internet, consultations could easily be taken into the home.

No big news there, but what’s interesting is the evidence that there might be a workable solution here. The result in a trial in one county in 2010, 44 Berrien County schoolchildren showed up in the emergency room for asthma-related illnesses at a cost of about $2,500 per visit. In 2011, the year a telemedicine program was implemented in the South Georgia county, only one showed up.

Apparently in a survey, US research showed that 85 percent of all Georgia patients age 18 to 85 have Internet access, and of those, 90 percent have web cameras or would be willing to buy one to see their doctor through telemedicine for minor problems.

And according to the feature, perhaps most telling, is 42 percent say they would consider changing doctors to take advantage of the service.

So its all pretty obvious. Just a few minor niggles to sort out. Like the ready availability of medical practitioners. Getting that right is pretty important if this is going to work, because either there will be far too many of them or they’ll all be out of work, especially if the consultation reaches a degree of automation semblant of what many patients do at the moment, ie google nasty headache and temperature.

Then there’s the medicolegal issue. If a consultation is performed remotely, imagine the  situation in which something goes wrong. Could the patient sue for lack of a physical diagnosis, or would they have to tick a box saying they accept that the consultation might not be quite as thorough as if they had been in the same room.

So the answer probably lies in the middle ground doesn’t it? Only certain types of patient, like the chronic asthmatic and diabetic will be targeted, and for these groups, especially if remote monitoring of physical signs is included, it’ll work well. Funny stomach pains of non specific origin may require referral.

No doubt in our minds though… this is a vision of the future. I mean, since when did a General Practitioner do a house call in the past ten years anyway, so it’s got to be an improvement.

Click here to receive antibiotics. Click here if you’re allergic to penicillin. Click here if you’re still feeling well enough to click here. Retry. On my way.

Source:, medlatest staff