Telemedicine Benefits

Would you like to save time, travel and gas by seeing non-local health specialists right from the Coast? Maybe even right from home? Would it interest the business community if people could have appointments with medical specialists on the Coast rather than taking themselves and their money inland? Would it benefit the health of the long-term economy if residents could stay in their homes longer? All this is possible with Telemedicine, and more!

Mr. Ray Hino, CEO of the Mendocino Coast District Hospital (MCDH), thinks Telemedicine has the potential to save lives in our isolated area. This technology would allow First Responder calls to be made from a location remote from the hospital, even a residence equipped with broadband. Contact can be made more quickly to get help. Mr. Hino says that a big percentage of Emergency Room visits turn out to be non-emergent. Hopefully, in the future, people may be able to consult with a doctor or nurse before making the long trip to the hospital.

Telemedicine has the potential to improve health care by bridging time and distance barriers, giving patients in rural areas greater access to a broad range of clinical expertise, and reducing delivery costs. It utilizes two-way videoconferencing computer software so health care professional and patient can see one another and communicate at a distance. Diagnostics can be done online and transmitted electronically along with x-rays and other information to anywhere in the world.

Mr. Hino thinks that the future for Telemedicine is good in this relatively isolated area because of the shortage of physicians locally. The hospital cannot bring all the specialists needed here physically, but they can be here electronically quickly. Why travel a whole day to San Francisco for a 15-minute appointment? Local physician Dr. Richard Sax-Wilner is currently learning how to use the new telemedicine technology using a “robot” computer which moves from room to room to allow a patient to be “seen” by a non-local physician. The physician can be anywhere, at home or in an office. The patient can continue to be monitored from home with broadband access.

An aging workforce with increasing healthcare needs is a big concern for Mr. Hino. More services will be needed into retirement. Quality health care is a pivotal attractor for new businesses so having Telemedicine could be good for the economy. The technology is available to improve health care on the Coast dramatically.

Now we need the ubiquitous broadband infrastructure to support it. Let your legislators hear your need so we get some of the new Stimulus funds on the Mendocino Coast.

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