BIZTIPS - May 9, 2004

Biz Tips: The Business of Healthcare - High Tech, High Touch
Sunday, May 9, 2004
By Art Hill

Normally you don’t get a chance to say much in your Dentist’s chair with all the tools and fingers in your mouth.  But several weeks ago between x-rays, I mumbled that the Oregon Telecommunications Coordinating Council is looking for ways to provide better healthcare using our state’s advanced fiber optic network.  Seems we have all the high tech systems we need for world class services, but they’re not always where they are needed most – in the hands of medical professionals and educators statewide.

Many of our clinics, hospitals, and colleges do have the latest technology – laser surgery, electronic imaging, biomedical research, state-of-the-art diagnostic equipment.  But especially in rural areas, where funding is strained, communication is difficult, and patients can be hours away, some of this technology is not readily accessible.

What if a doctor in a rural clinic could get a blood sample analyzed on-line without shipping it to a lab? What if a nurse could monitor the vital signs of a patient 90 miles away? What if they could videoconference with specialists on the other side of the country…or the world?  What if they could learn advanced life-saving procedures without traveling to a distant conference?

Some of this is already happening.  Patient-doctor information exchange, remote diagnosis and monitoring, advanced training, even simulation of illness, and robotic surgery are in development or in use.  The challenge is to make the most needed on-line services available throughout Oregon at reasonable cost.

For a sample of telemedicine projects worldwide, go to http://tie.telemed.org and click on “Active Programs.”  Then e-mail us at sbdc@bluecc.edu and tell us which services you think are the most important.

Oh, I almost forgot.  After a thoughtful pause, my dentist responded “You know, high tech is great, but I hope we never lose personal contact with our patients.”   So do I, Doctor. So do I.


Content © 2004 East Oregonian