The science of telemedicine: A lifesaver in the right place

Strokes are another area where telemedicine can be vital. In the first few hours after a stroke, a drug called tissue plasminogen activator can break up blood clots, reducing damage to the brain and potentially saving a person’s life. But in other cases, the drug can cause a fatal hemorrhage. Only a stroke specialist has the expertise to make that call, and local hospitals that don’t have one onsite are reluctant to make those decisions. Telemedicine means they can find someone qualified to make a call on TPA.

The technology also seems to help in non-urgent care. In places like homes for the elderly, telemedicine can let doctors conduct regular check-ups on people who are bed-bound. A February 2014 study said that doctors could check on sick patients during off-hours through two-way video conferencing with just as good outcomes as if they were there physically—which cuts down on hospitalizations. A study last September shows that for patients with severe chronic conditions, like congestive heart failure, telemedicine allows long-term monitoring that can decrease or prevent complications.