Small and remote hospitals increasingly are adopting telehealth technology to improve patient care and reduce costs, the New York Times reports.
Peter Yellowlees -- director of the health informatics program at the University of California-Davis and a board member of the American Telemedicine Association -- said, "There has been a shift in belief that telemedicine can only be used for rural areas to a belief that it can be used anywhere," adding, "Now, you can buy a $100 webcam and do high-quality videoconferencing."
Nantucket Cottage Hospital Turns To Telehealth
Located on an island 30 miles from the mainland of Massachusetts, Nantucket Cottage Hospital's community has diverse medical needs. The island's population increases from 10,000 to 50,000 in the summer and disproportionately suffers from certain dermatological ailments because of residents' outdoor lifestyles.
In the past, the hospital paid for Boston- and Cape Cod-based specialists to travel and stay on the island several times a year to meet the health needs of the community. However, new telehealth programs have helped avoid some of those costs.
For example, the hospital's teledermatology program saves nearly $29,000 annually. Through the program, two Massachusetts General Hospital dermatologists see 1,100 Nantucket patients per year, but only visit the hospital four times per year. The hospital also uses telehealth for radiology, pediatrics, stroke care and endocrinology.
According to Nantucket CEO Margot Hartmann, the programs help the hospital better meet its mission "because we're offering more locally."
Telehealth Continues To Face Implementation Challenges
Despite its promise, telehealth technology still faces various adoption challenges.
Some regulations require that physicians be licensed in the state where patients are treated, limiting the use of telehealth to in-state treatment.
In addition, insurance coverage for telehealth varies, with some insurers only covering telehealth in rural areas.
Moreover, some patients refuse to use telehealth, and some physicians are wary of the technology's shortcomings.
For example, Timothy Lepore -- medical director of Nantucket Cottage Hospital -- said he prefers having an on-site radiologist to provide faster readings and prevent mistakes (Belluck, New York Times, 10/8).
Other Articles in 'The Digital Doctor' Series
The article on telehealth is part of the New York Times' "The Digital Doctor" series, which examines how technology is affecting the field of medicine. Headlines and links to other articles in the series are provided below.
- "Strides in Medicine, and Their Price" (Altman, New York Times, 10/8).
- "E-Health Opportunities for Seniors" (Brody, New York Times, 10/8).
- "The Ups and Downs of Electronic Medical Records" (Freudenheim, New York Times, 10/8).
- "Recalibrating Therapy for Our Wired World" (Friedman, New York Times, 10/8).
- "Redefining Medicine With Apps and iPads" (Hafner, New York Times, 10/8).
- "Texting the Teenage Patient" (Hoffman, New York Times, 10/8).
- "A New Tooth, Made to Order in Under an Hour" (Kolata, New York Times, 10/8).
- "Laboratories Seek New Ways to Take a Look Inside" (Markoff, New York Times, 10/8).
- "The Doctor’s Bag for the New Millennium" (Verghese, New York Times, 10/8).
- "Which 'HT' to Treat: Hypertension or Hammertoe?" (Zuger, New York Times, 10/8).