2011-08-26 / Columnists

Health and Harmony

Telemedicine Becomes TeleHealthCare
By Dr. Nancy Gahles

Trends move quickly in the Internet technology world or IT as it is known.

Telemedicine took up its position in healthcare by providing access to patients’ records via computer. This is called EHR or electronic health records. Certainly, this must be part of the future of medicine just as the fax was in making access to records and other patient information immediately available.

The trend continues as hospitals are attempting to coordinate care with doctors outside of the hospital and reduce visits as well as readmission to hospitals thereby lowering costs.

Corporations such as Intel have partnered with insurance companies such as Humana to develop pilot projects focused on the 70-80 year age group that use IT to monitor vital signs and other indicators while keeping the patient at home. This pilot project is called Aging in Place. It is focused on the congestive heart failure patient whose costs to maintain are quite costly to insurance providers.

It is obvious that IT monitoring at home will save the time for the elderly to make a trip to a doctor’s office to monitor their vital signs. For the environmentally conscious, it will also reduce the carbon footprint that fuel use entails. The time and expense saved for caregivers involved in the transportation and accompanying the patient alone is a huge benefit.

Intel and the forethought of Jean Bisio, president of Humana, deserve accolades for this innovative work which will undoubtedly serve our aging population and their families and certainly pave the way for more applications.

The movement of IT from telemedicine to TeleHealthcare is still in its infancy. Health is the state that a person is in who doesn’t need medicines or monitoring of vital signs as one does who suffers from chronic disease.

Health is the state we achieve when we have employed the tenets of prevention of disease through healthy lifestyle choices. That said, as human beings, traversing this human path, we encounter obstacles and challenges along the way that need to be addressed before they become chronic issues.

TeleHouseCalls is a service I initiated over a year ago in order to serve the public in the easiest way to get the best results in the shortest time for the least amount of money.

Tele health is simply the delivery of health related services, information and education via telecommunications technology. In its simplest form it is a phone call between the patient and me. In the world of IT, it is videoconferencing via Skype, FaceTime or iChat to discuss a healthcare issue that lends itself to this medium. In fact, studies show that almost half of the visits to the doctor are unnecessary and lead to tests and procedures that you don’t need. Not to mention the two elephants in the room, time and money spent in travel, gas and lost time from work or home duties in order to have seven minutes or less with the doctor. The fact that most visits to a primary care physician are for self-limiting conditions such as colds, coughs, virus, flu and back pain indicates that a service such as TeleHouseCalls may be just what the doctor ordered!

Certainly, we understand that emergencies, serious accidents and conditions like heart attacks or strokes need to be medically addressed immediately. Tele triage is health advice given over the Internet or phone. A competent doctor will direct you to appropriate care.

“TeleHealth is an expansion of telemedicine, and, unlike telemedicine (which more narrowly focuses on the curative aspect), it encompasses preventive, promotive and curative aspects.” – Wikipedia.

An example is a patient who e-mailed me that she needed an appointment for chiropractic care for severe sciatic pain in her leg. It happened that I was on vacation in Mexico at the time but had my iPad with me. I explained that to her and told her to schedule an appointment for my return. She responded that she couldn’t make that day as she was seeing a dermatologist for an “unrelated” rash on her back. Immediately, a light bulb went off! I asked her to send me a picture of the rash from her phone. She did so and my suspicions were confirmed. She had a case of shingles. The eruption along the nerve root was causing the sciatica. I told her to keep the appointment with the dermatologist, I gave her an information prescription for a homeopathic remedy to relieve the pain and hasten healing and advised her to see me upon my return. All of this took 15 minutes, cost $50, the patient was relieved to have a diagnosis and a treatment and I was on vacation!

This is the future of healthcare. Easy access, low cost and time saving.

It is my distinct pleasure and honor to offer this service to our community.

It grows in richness every day. So do we all become abundant through help- ing each other realize good health and harmony.

As summer comes to a close and the stresses of the return of routines begin, time will be at a premium. When you feel that you are coming down with something, have a question while you are waiting for your child on the soccer field, give me a call. Contact me at askdrnancy@aol.com to exchange contact info for immediate telecommunications as future needs arise. Allergies, colds, coughs, virus, flus are all easily addressed with integrative healthcare modalities and common sense interventions. May The Blessings Be!

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