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Telemedicine: prospects and realities

Ian Olver

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Abstract

Telemedicine, or delivering medicine at a distance, allows improved access to specialist services and education. However, several issues need to be addressed before telemedicine becomes more widely used.

Article Extract

The philosopher Immanuel Kant said that humans are to be treated, ‘always as ends and never as means only’. The opposite could be said of telemedicine where this new technology should be a means to an end and not an end in itself.

Telemedicine is defined as delivering medicine at a distance and most commonly applies to videoconferencing. Telemedicine can be used to transmit x-ray images and scan images, view pathology slides from a remote site and conduct face-to-face consultations in real time. Conferences can occur between patients and doctors, as in telepsychiatry; renal specialists can monitor patients in remote dialysis centres. Conferences can also occur between doctors, for example remote doctors and multidisciplinary cancer specialists in a teleoncology meeting.

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