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Bentonville, Arkansas

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Ryan Scott
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Telemedicine: Bringing Experts to Rural Hospitals

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Shop, email, read the news, and NOW… get medical attention! That’s right, many hospitals are employing the internet to maximize the resources of specialist through telemedicine. According to the American Telemedicine Association, using monitoring devices and miniature cameras connected to the internet, many of the sickest patients are getting specialized attention from doctors hundreds and thousands of miles away.

According to the association, many hospitals, especially in rural areas, have turned to technology to improve the quality of healthcare to their patients. Just recently, a hospital in Northwest Arkansas installed the telemedicine technology in its Intensive Care Unit. The hospital links up with its parent company and sister facility in a large urban city to maximize the use of its intensivits. Intensivists are doctors specially trained to treat the most critically ill patients. With the use of this technology, intensivists in St. Louis can monitor the real-time vitals of a patient in rural Arkansas and use the cameras to zoom in close enough to count the patient’s eyelashes.

The hospital claims this helps "bridge the specialty gap" that exists because smaller community hospitals cannot afford to staff such a focused specialty. The hospital says it’s like getting two doctors, one on site, the specialist on-line.

This could be great news for those of us who live in smaller communities. However, no technology will replace the need for an actual caretaker at the patient’s side (even if only for the patient’s own emotional and mental well-being). Whether hospitals use this technology as a much needed supplement for stretched-to-the-max healthcare providers and not as a method to replace the human face of medicine remains to be seen.