Telehealth Growing as a New Way to Practice Medicine

By Brian T. Horowitz  |  Posted 2011-02-02 Print this article Print

title=Replenishing the Primary Care Physician Network}

In another instance, Woods sought help through Online Care for pink eye. "I had my eye up to the camera," Woods said. And a doctor responded with an eye-drop prescription. For a more serious condition or in-depth exam, Woods heads to the doctor's office, however.

Still, patients can consult with doctors remotely for urgent ailments such as strep throat and urinary-tract infections. Users also can log on to Online Care to seek help for conditions such as sinusitis and bronchitis.

The service could be ideal for chronic or acute conditions in which an exam isn't necessary and also provide immediate access to a specialist who patients would otherwise have to wait weeks to see, such as waiting 60 days to get an appointment with a rheumatologist, Schoenberg said.

Telehealth could also be helpful for patients who may have difficulty leaving their homes, he said. Rather than getting out to see their doctors every one or two months, they can consult with a physician each week, Schoenberg said.

During an Online Care session, physicians access the patient's clinical data and activate a video chat or phone call to diagnose conditions and prescribe medication. The Online Care physician then sends a record of the visit to the patient's primary doctor. Patients can consult with doctors in areas such as pediatrics, ob-gyn, internal medicine and urgent care.

Schoenberg noted that the technology allows doctors to work as much or as little as they want and let the system know when they're available-especially those who might otherwise consider retirement.

"It's something that's disappeared over the last 20 years, their ability to practice as much as they like from wherever they like and continue to have a life, instead of being confined to having to show up at a practice, leaving at 6 in the evening," Schoenberg said.

"We see more and more physicians making themselves available who would otherwise be off the grid," Schoenberg noted. "We are replenishing the grid of primary-care physicians."

Telehealth visits borrow security measures from the banking industry, according to Schoenberg. "From a security standpoint, we've literally assumed into the system the same approach that the banking industry has-identification encryption," he said. "The same standards that have to do with assuring consumers that their interaction will be with a trusted provider and cannot be abused by anyone else," he added.

"It's a completely secure, confidential and intimate encounter between patient and physician," he said.

"A video is not an easy stream to tap into network-wise," Dr. David Ellis, director of telehealth for the department of emergency medicine at the University of Buffalo, told eWEEK. "You can do it, but if it's encrypted and secure, you have the confidence that you're dealing with a secure environment."

Brian T. Horowitz is a freelance technology and health writer as well as a copy editor. Brian has worked on the tech beat since 1996 and covered health care IT and rugged mobile computing for eWEEK since 2010. He has contributed to more than 20 publications, including Computer Shopper, Fast Company,, More, NYSE Magazine, Parents,, USA Weekend and, as well as other consumer and trade publications. Brian holds a B.A. from Hofstra University in New York.

Follow him on Twitter: @bthorowitz


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