Thomasville-- In southwest Georgia, specialists in dermatology and other fields are few and far between. But telemedicine technology is changing that. "Patients who are in areas devoid of my sub-specialty can access specialists such as myself," said determatologist Dr. Cheryl Barnes. Today, using telemedicine she was able to consult with this patient in Douglas.
"They get to stay with their local, family care doctor who they have a relationship with," explains Georgia Insurance Commissioner John Oxendine. Beyond the comfort factor, Dr. Harriett Loehne, Clinical Educator for Wound Management, adds its extremely convenient to assess a patients condition over the computer. "I can do a consult live with the patient right there, and I don't have to travel, nor does the patient have to travel via ambulance or whatever to come down here," says Loehne. Cardiologist Dr. Gerald Kadis adds, "We do sit in a relatively rural part of Georgia and it is difficult for some people to travel around."
Many times it's a substitute for a doctor's appointment in person. "Obviously you miss out on being able to feel lesions and see them up close," says Barnes. But, for some fields it works even better. "The computer and the camera show you even more than you can sometimes see with your naked eye. The sound is excellent, visuals are wonderful," says Loehne.
Along with care from your personal doctor on the other side, patients get the best care possible. "Your local primary care doctor can treat most any medical condition. They just simply need the specialist to diagnose it and to prescribe the appropriate treatment," Oxendine says.
Being a telemedicine hub also promotes economic recruiting. Employers can offer access to any specialist anywhere in Georgia for their employees.
As part of Commissioner Oxendine's Rural Health Initiative, telemedicine is now covered by insurance. Any place your insurance would cover you seeing a doctor in person, they must also do it via telemedicine.