WASHINGTON, October 13, 2009 – Hospitals and health care are the last of the industrial-age institutions that have yet to go online as department stores, banks, and venues entertainment have already gone, panelists said at the Broadband Breakfast Club Tuesday morning.
With the Federal Communications Commission charged with developing a National Broadband Plan by February 2010, health care is one obvious area potentially impacted by greater broadband.
One of the most significant ways in which broadband is likely to impact health care is through the integration of technology into the fabric on consumers’ lives, as with greater use of smart phones.
Ron Poropatich, a doctor and colonel in the U.S. Army , said that physicians dealing with returning active members of the military suffering from traumatic brain injuries or post-traumatic stress syndrome find that art of text messaging has become a vital source of scheduling and reminding.
“[Physicians] would send e-mails to patients in the military of when their appointments would be and the e-mail would be sent back because their e-mail boxes are full,” said Poropatich. “When we would ask them about it, they would say, ‘oh, just send me a text.’”
This advancement has been applied in other contexts, too. For example, expecting mothers are able to benefit from text messages about the need to obtain check-ups, exams, and even set up the bedrooms of their future babies, said Poropatich.
This type of telemedicine has also been expanded to people who have other health issues, such as diabetes and heart-related issues.
According to Dr. Jay Sanders of the Global Telemedicine Group, this type of interaction has become so that instead of the patient traveling to go see the doctor or the physician, it brings the doctor to the patient.
An example of this is for the Veteran Affairs Department. Veteran’s Affairs has long been engaged with telehealth, and has been expanding health services into people’s home for chronic conditions, giving “long term, sustainable health care.”
About 45,000 of 260,000 patients under the department’s care receive some form of in-home health care, he said.
Such technologies allow doctors to be able look up patient records and charts – as well as checking their vital signs – without necessarily being there.
“If a physician doesn’t have the chart, vital signs, stats or anything in relation to the patient, they are not applicable to make a medical decision,” says Adam Darkins, head of national telehealth programs for the department.
This goes the same for performing medical procedures overseas in war zones.
“They have been able to connect a webcam to the surgeon’s medical hat, and stream video to other medical professionals so they can be as interactive as possible,” Poropatich said. This allows experienced physicians to conduct surgery through remote devices without having to be there.
This kind of operation requires an intensive amount of bandwidth. In those situation, he said, “it is all about what is being sent though the pipes.”
But other types of telemedicine don’t require such intensive bandwidth, including the text-based and mobile applications discussed by the panelists.
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