Telemedicine sets building blocks for future

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Depending on the time of day, someone can wait to see a doctor for over 30 minutes or even longer, but with the help of technology those times are changing.

The Utah Telehealth Network has developed a system called telemedicine that assists in helping rural areas be able to see doctors for certain things. Instead of having to drive to a hospital for an emergency, a patient can go to a local clinic. If the clinic is connected to the system they can Skype with a hospital doctor for certain emergencies.

Marz Cesarini, IT operations manager of the Utah Telehealth Network, gave a presentation last Tuesday in the Zions Room about telemedicine.

“Telemedicine is the future of healthcare [and] everyone should know about it,” Cesarini said.

The first site for telemedicine was in Wendover in 1995. By 2007 Utah Telehealth Network had 15 sites connected, and by the beginning of 2015 there were 60 sites connected to the system. Utah Telehealth is hoping to have 75-90 sites connected by the end of 2016.

Utah Telehealth Network offers different services through certain clinics and hospitals. Some of the services that are offered are video conferencing, live web streaming, recording of health events and consulting services. Besides these services there are ones that are used to help patients see doctors that are not in their area.

Some of these services are telestroke, teleburn, and telecrisis. Telestroke is a popular one that has already saved many lives. When a patient goes in and they might possibly be having a stoke, the clinic can Skype call with a stroke specialist at a hospital. From there, the hospital doctor can diagnose the patient and even write a prescription that can save their life. If the doctor can get the medicine to the patient within three hours the patient has a better chance of survival and no permanent injuries. This is just one example of what telemedicine has done to better healthcare.

“Telemedicine is a great thing because it gives patients a better chance of survival,” Cesarini said. “Instead of having to rush to a far away hospital the patient can go to a local clinic and receive the proper medical help.”

Jamison Robinette, a sophomore health administration major from Syracuse who helped put the presentation together, said it is important for students to understand telemedicine.

“Telemedicine is the future of healthcare,” Robinette said. “It is also producing new occupation options in the medical and I.T. professions.” 

Cesarini said it is important for students to know about telemedicine for the future. 

“With telemedicine becoming more popular there are more choices for career options,” Cesarini said. “There are more options for where you can work and even where you can work from. Some [areas] are thinking of having doctors work from home. They would just take calls from a home computer and that would be their full time job.”

The rural areas are ones that benefit the most. If a patient from one of these communities has an emergency they can get an emergency doctor to help them, no matter what area they are in.

“People have an accessibility of quality healthcare no matter where they live,” Robinette said.

Utah Telehealth Network is also working on what the company is calling direct to consumer. This is where people will be able to go into Walmart, Walgreens or another major store, and have the same benefits. This is also a cheaper way for people who don’t have insurance to get minor medical help. The cost of this would be inexpensive with or without insurance.

The company is also trying to come up with wearable devices like tattoos that can monitor a person’s vital signs, or contact lenses that monitor glucose levels. Cesarini said that tattoos like the ones mentioned have already been created, but they are not available to the public yet.

“Not just telemedicine, but technology is the future of everything,” Cesarini said. “No matter the career, everything involves some type of technology.”

Knowing what is to come in the future can be very important as technology is constantly progressing.

“I want to encourage all students to look into telemedicine regardless of career choice [and] become a part of the future,” Robinette said. “We are the future of the workforce [and] we need to learn about it now.”