Ophthalmologists worldwide are celebrating some recent findings that have profound implications for rural communities in particular. A new study shows that telemedicine is equally as effective as in-person exams in detecting a blindness-causing condition in premature babies.
Have you heard of telemedicine? If you’ve been a visitor to Urgent 9 in the past, you’ve probably heard of it before, because Urgent 9 has been one of this particular technology’s biggest champions for a while. Telemedicine is a secure, private video chat with your physician that allows you to get a quick consultation on health issues that may not require going into the office for an in-person visit.
Right off the bat, you can see some of the advantages this provides: less waiting, less sitting in traffic, and more efficient access to health care. Of course, telemedicine isn’t appropriate for every type of ailment. But for issues where you mainly need to ask questions to your doctor, describe symptoms, or show them something, telemedicine can be a huge time-saver (for both patient and physician!).
For us here in the Los Angeles area, telemedicine is certainly a convenience and way to help streamline healthcare within the structure of our already-busy lives. But for people living in rural communities, telemedicine is literally a lifeline that can make a huge impact on health outcomes. Often, people living in more distant and sparsely-populated areas simply don’t have access to specialists or higher quality doctors. By using telemedicine, these communities can be served by the best doctors in the pertinent field possible.
One area where rural communities are already being impacted positively via telemedicine is in regards to Retinopathy of Prematurity (ROP). You might best know ROP as the condition that made musician Stevie Wonder blind from birth. If left unchecked, prematurely born babies with ROP might never regain their vision. However, if caught in time — and with a little luck — there are outcomes that will result in limited or full sight for these premature babies.
However, ROP is the kind of condition that not every doctor in a rural area is qualified to diagnose or treat. And thankfully, this new study shows that ROP is just as easily identified via telemedicine as an in-person exam, which means that as long as people in far-flung areas are aware of the telemedicine option, we can improve care for scores of yet-unborn children.
So, spread the word about telemedicine! Although it might sound like something out of a science fiction movie, telemedicine is already here and being offered at Urgent 9 as we speak.