Philly City Council checks up on telemedicine

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    In the first Philadelphia City Council hearing of 2014, council members looked into the provision of medical services through “telemedicine,” video consultations with physicians and other medical professionals.

    The Thursday hearing focused on efforts to expand care in the city through alternative methods. 

    The city has computers with video cameras for dermatology consultations and mobile vans to provide dental care very effectively, among other health care outreach efforts, reported Dr. Donald Schwarz, city health commissioner.

    “We have digitalized our radiology so an X-ray is taken and sent to an outside radiologist,” he said. “Within rapid turnaround, a report on that X-ray because the city doesn’t employ radiologists ourselves.”

    Any medical evaluation that is visual can be done via electronic link, said Schwarz.

    Elizabeth Younkins of the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia’s Care Network said doctors are using remote consultations even for victims of sexual abuse.

    “CHOP physicians will provide onsite medical care as well as establish tele medicine consultation for victims of child sexual abuse at a new co-located facility on Hunting Park Avenue,” she said.

    The city is successfully using technology to provide access to care to those who are underserved, agreed Dr. Carrie Kovarik of the University of Pennsylvania.

    “I think that we’ve shown the primary care doctors like it, the patients are getting consults very quickly and, if we can’t manage it by [telemedicine], we find a way to do it in person,” she said.

    Those testifying believe that technology will continue to widen access to medical care, especially in areas where people cannot see specialists easily.

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