There is no doubt that telemedicine has the potential to offer some advantages in improving access of rural patients to hospital specialists. The Scottish Centre for Telehealth has been doing a lot of work in this field, and its growing website is an indication of the growing use expected in the future.
The latest cutbacks might accelerate plans to implement videoconference consultations – albeit as a way of reducing the actual clinics provided in remote and rural areas.
However it seems that the suitability of telemedicine consultations can be specialty-specific, and some would argue that larger benefits are to be gained in review appointments compared with first-appointments. In addition, there is a balance between telemedicine allowing greater access to mainland specialists to rural communities, versus its use to pull physical services away.
These two articles from the Scottish Medical Journal caught my attention recently – providing a review of telemedicine in two particular areas…
- Safety and Effectiveness of Telemedicine for Neurology Outpatients (Duncan et al, 2010).
- Professional Opinions of the Use of Telemedicine in Child & Adolescent Psychiatry (Mitchell et al, 2009).