News & Announcements

Video Dial-a-Doctor Seen Easing Shortage in Rural U.S.

Posted: September 08, 2012

Until recently, when children in Ware County, Georgia, needed to see a pediatrician or a specialist, getting to the nearest doctor could entail a four- hour drive up Interstate 75 to Atlanta. Now, there’s another option. As part of a state-wide initiative, the rural county has installed videoconferencing equipment at all 10 of its schools to give its 5,782 students one-on-one access to physicians. Telemedicine sites for adults have also sprung in the area. Instead of taking a full day off from work or school, residents can now regularly see their specialist online.

Putting telemedicine in schools and walk-in clinics makes perfect sense, said Debra Lister, 61, medical director of the Coffee Regional Medical Center in Douglas, Georgia. “In the very beginning most of the ones we did, oddly enough, involved dermatology,” said Lister, whose clinic began offering telemedicine about six years ago. “Now, most of what we do is child psychiatry.”

Lynn Rivers, the nursing coordinator for the Ware County Board of Education, says telemedicine offers a double benefit. Students get the medical care they need, and they don’t miss school to do it, she said.

While about a quarter of Americans live in rural areas, only 9 percent of doctors work there, according to the nonprofit National Rural Health Association.

The Georgia initiative is also placing telemedicine equipment in clinics, prisons and churches across the state to provide help to adults. Similar programs exist in Alaska, Hawaii and North and South Dakota.

Read more on the Bloomberg website.

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