The days of the house-call-making country doctor might just be back, due in part to emerging technology.
Not only could telemedicine systems bring doctors to patients in far-flung areas, but it could also decrease wait times and hospital stays, as well as bring world-class medicine to the developing world.
If you’re not already using such technology, take a look at our guide to off-the-shelf applications that could have you and your team diagnosing in the sub-arctic, sub-Saharan Africa or the middle of the Pacific with time and budget to spare…
The world’s most prolific video conferencing tool is the first software many turn to, whether you’re a parent chatting with your kid at college, or Oprah talking to a guest on national TV. But the tool has also long been used informally in the science and medical community for consultations and other interactions between colleagues.
2. Skype ER?
A new Skype Attendant test program promises to turn the seat-of-the-pants freeware into a serious (and possibly reliable) emergency tool for virtual access to doctors for patients in remote areas. Users on skypejournal.com surmise that the new service could provide:
* online medical support to remote users
* telemedicine support
* location-based telemedicine (depending on your local regulatory framework)
* emergency services
* medical records for consultants for patients using data mining
3. Webcam MD
This up-&-coming technology makes use of diagnostic handheld USB camera/light (think of that salt-shaker-like scanner Dr McCoy had in Star Trek) that patients run over the part of their body they need a doctor to look at. Though you need to actually have the device, the company claims the service will cut wait time to a fraction on both the doctor and patient side. Check out their demo video:
4. Robots lend a hand (or twelve) from afar
Surgery robots such as da Vinci can have as many hands as they need to and each hand can be specially outfitted to hold a specific surgical tool. The surgeon controlling these offspring of the robotic arm on the space shuttle can be in another room or another country.
5. eTime’s home endoscope
Imagine patients hooking up their own USB-based endoscope and performing an examination for a doctor hundreds or thousands of miles away…The device could show doctors close-up views of possible skin cancer lesions, or – in a pitch – live scans of, um, anywhere else on their person a patient is willing to stick this handy device.
6. HD telepresence without a dedicated line
A quasi-competitor to Skype, Vidyo offers rock-solid HD video, with all the bells and whistles of high-end videoconferencing setups (ability to display multiple video windows, see and control information across networks, etc..) Though this one isn’t free, it’s one of the best bargains going for getting into serious medical video conferencing and telepresence.
7. Linking different video sources together
The folks at Radvision have created a setup you can implement on your laptop and use from your office but still loop-in multiple people using multiple video sources.
8. Telemedicine via cell phone
Brazilian and American researchers are developing a cheap, elegantly simple, telemedicine system using cell phone cameras to collect medical data from patients. The visual data would then be transmitted to experts offsite for to diagnose urgent medical conditions. The application could be a breakthrough in parts of the world where cell phone penetration is greater than that of high-speed internet.
9. Telepresence for heart monitoring
This Bluetooth monitor that measures electrical signals from your heart could text your local hospital if you are about to have a heart attack. The application produces an electrocardiogram and sends it (with an alert) via text message.
10. What will the future hold?
With the advent of 3G consumer networks and the next tier of the Internet, what is the next generation of mature aps for telemedicine? Take a look at this insightful glimpse into the future, from University of California, Davis.