Health Care of the Future: Telemedicine Makes Medicine More Accessible
Technology has allowed us to link with people all around the world. From connecting with friends and family abroad to discovering new cultures while sitting in the comfort of our own home, access to the internet has transformed the way we communicate.
So it’s no surprise it’s also changing the face of medicine. A new trend around the world is the advent of telemedicine, which allows doctors to treat patients regardless of where either of them are.
Dr. Howard Yonas, division chief for neurosurgery at the University of New Mexico School of Medicine, said telemedicine has transformed what he’s been able to do around his state. In 2014, he and the school were awarded a $15.1 million grant from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid to establish a telemedicine network in 30 New Mexico hospitals.
The technology has allowed Yonas to do remote consulting in emergency rooms for patients with head trauma.
“Telemedicine has allowed me to do highly specialized, patient-specific care in rural New Mexico where neurologists and experts don’t exist,” he says.
Thanks to technology, doctors like Yonas are able to get real-time data from patients, speak with them one-on-one using video conferencing (or, in some cases, communicate with their loved ones) and make recommendations for hospital staff on care.
In the past, any patient who needed an expert consultation in a hospital that didn’t have one would’ve required a transfer, which can be expensive for the hospital and the patient. Yonas says 90% of the people he sees are able to stay in the hospital of origin and receive care, thanks to a teledoctor’s expertise and the work of hospital staff.
Yonas says this is the medicine of the future. He predicts more and more hospitals will open telemedicine centers that can connect doctors to a range of specialists not available on-site — including doctors who specialize in sleep. One day, he believes people will be able to access a slew of experts from around the world in the comfort of their own home. And he says patients are big advocates of this model.
“Of our 6,000 patient consults, the acceptance by the patient and their family is extremely high,” he says. “The benefit of staying in their community is tremendously appreciated.”
In sleep specifically, evolving technology with sleep trackers and better at-home test devices, telemedicine could prove to be a huge benefit for those battling sleep disorders.