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A new kind of house call

Telemedicine makes specialty care more available

Don’t be surprised if your doctor tells you they want to see you on TV. He or she isn’t referring to the latest reality show, but instead wants you to take advantage of one of the latest advances in healthcare: telemedicine.

Telemedicine uses videoconference technology so patients and physicians can see and hear each other just as if they are in the same room. Medical devices such as electronic stethoscopes help make telehealth examinations just as effective as traditional face-to-face visits.

Since 1995, UK Healthcare has completed more than 80,000 telehealth visits, providing more than 25 specialty services to patients across Kentucky and around the world. Telehealth technology helps patients in rural Kentucky avoid a costly and tiring round-trip drive and lost time from work: telemedicine can potentially improve health outcomes for patients.

Many patients with limited access to specialty care benefit from telemedicine, including children with Autism Spectrum Disorder, mothers with high-risk pregnancies, and families with loved ones that suffer from memory problems such as Alzheimer’s disease. Traveling to Lexington for a doctor’s appointment can be difficult for the family and disorienting for the patient, but UK’s Memory Disorder Telemedicine Clinic brings neurology specialists to patients and their families closer to home.

Telehealth’s horizon is nearly unlimited. New opportunities bring the technology into the emergency room and on emergency transport vehicles, as well as reaching into the home and the workplace. This same technology also brings medical care into federal and state prisons, keeping inmates behind bars, reducing public safety risks and reducing the taxpayer burden of costly inmate transport.

Telemedicine specialties

Telemedicine is a rapidly expanding field, using special technologies to bring specialty care to patients closer to home, reducing stress and expense for anxious patients and their families. UK currently offers telemedicine services in many specialties.

Kentuckians are fortunate to have the Kentucky Telehealth Network (KTHN) statewide telehealth program that connects more than 350 healthcare facilities from Pikeville to Paducah. It isn’t often that you hear “The doctor will see you now” coming from a computer monitor, but if you do, embrace it as an opportunity to get specialty healthcare with minimal fuss.

Rob Sprang, MBA, director of University of Kentucky’s TeleHealth Program, from the November 2015 issue.

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