Healthcare Technology: Taking the Good with the Bad

Tuesday, July 29th, 2008
This post was written by Melanie Matthews

When it comes to healthcare technologies, we are in the golden age. Need proof? Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Exhibit A: the Telemedicine clinic. Recently, My Healthy Access, Inc. and NuPhysicia signed off on a joint-operating agreement to run Telemedicine clinics in select Wal-Marts in the Houston area. The clinics, Walk-In Telemedicine Health Care, allow physicians to meet with patients virtually while on-site paramedics examine patients under direct supervision of a PCP.

“Simply put, the paramedic serves as the ‘hands’ of the physician, who uses medical devices such as an electronic stethoscope to listen to the heart, or other scopes that can see down the throat or in the ears — and the physician sees and hears everything live and in real time,” said Glenn G. Hammack, president of NuPhysicia. “The physician performs the exam as if he or she was in the room with the patient.”

These retail clinics boast taking convenient care one step further by essentially cutting out the NP and providing the patient with an interactive visit with the PCP.

Exhibit B: The Northwest Telehealth network — a service offered to Washington prisoners that allows them to attend sessions with their psychiatrists, obtain prescription medications via a vending machine and “teleconsult” with dieticians to manage chronic conditions like diabetes.

Telehealth’s benefits are threefold: These virtual visits save tax dollars, improve safety by cutting back on transporting prisoners to and from points of care and discourage prisoners from faking symptoms in order to leave the prison and go to the ED. This results in a decrease in ED visits from prisoners, which, according to Gram McGregor, ED manager at Deaconess Medical Center in Spokane, Wash., an ED in close proximity to Washington’s Ridge Corrections Center, 50 percent of the inmates that come to his ED do not need to be there.

But like everything else in life, you have to take the good with the bad, and healthcare technologies are no different. The director of the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute (UPCI) warned his faculty to limit their cell phone use as it could be linked to cancer. Dr. Ronald B. Herberman warns to take precautions now regarding cell phone use:

“Really at the heart of my concern is that we shouldn’t wait for a definitive study to come out, but err on the side of being safe rather than sorry later,” Dr. Herberman said.

And finally, Nintendo’s Wii Fit isn’t doing as much good as some gamers might like to think. The American Council on Exercise (ACE) announced the results of its study on the potential fitness benefits of the game.

“With interactive video games becoming more popular than ever before and Americans now spending an average of 19 to 25 hours per week watching TV and playing video games, we set out to discover whether or not the Wii is truly beneficial as an exercise tool,” said Cedric X. Bryant, Ph.D., chief science officer. “While they have managed to get traditional gamers off the couch and our results show that Wii Sports offer more of a cardio benefit than sedentary games, we believe there is no substitute for the real sport.”

Moreover, the study finds that boxing was the only Wii game intense enough to maintain or improve cardiorespiratory endurance, as defined by industry standards.

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