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Access to care is critical in today’s world. Being able to contact a doctor, whether over the phone, online or in person is something that everyone should be able to do when needed. One of the more rapidly growing areas to increase access to care is the field of telemedicine, or virtual doctor’s visits that can be used to evaluate symptoms, check vital signs and even observe a patient’s mental health.
Here are three companies working to bring telemedicine to the furthest reaches of the United States, and even some the remotest places in world.
HealthSpot is a newer player in the telemedicine sector. With plans in place to install communications kiosks in pharmacies and clinics across the country, seeing a doctor about that rash on your arm could soon be as easy as visiting your neighborhood drug store. In addition to a high definition two-way video conferencing system, built-in tools include scales, blood pressure cuffs, thermometers, stethoscopes, otoscopes and more. Though they just raised more than $10 million in Series C funding, HealthSpot still has plenty of work to do – next on their task list is building out a network of doctors to do the diagnosing.
Hospital system and insurer HealthPartners has founded a new company, Virtuwell, to develop affordable virtual care via telemedicine. Their plan for keeping costs down involves the use of diagnostic clinicians – typically nurse practitioners or physician’s assistants – instead of physicians. These internet-connected medical professionals can diagnose and write prescriptions for around 40 common conditions including colds, flu, allergies, acne and some sexually transmitted infections. And according to an internal study, Virtuwell services save patients an average of $88 per consultation and 2.5 hours of their valuable time, both great reasons to celebrate this increased access to care.
In a location where emergency evacuations can quickly run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars, being able to notice any early warning signs of life-threatening conditions is absolutely critical. The National Science Foundation has partnered with doctors at the University of Texas Medical Branch to provide remote care for their researchers stationed all the way at the South Pole. With the telemedical staple video conferencing technology and an array of specialized devices equipped with cameras and microphones, doctors back in Texas can actively monitor the health of scientists operating in one the harshest environments on the planet. Combined with electronic medical records to speed the sharing of patient information, the UTMB telemedicine doctors do their best to fill the gaps in the on-site healthcare available at the three Antarctic research stations. While there may not be MRI machines or operating rooms, through check-ups via telemedicine researchers can rest easy knowing their health is being looked after.
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