NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


June 12, 2008

Telemedicine permits remote consultations by video link and even remote surgery, but its future may lie closer to home, says the Economist. 

Telemedicine combines telecommunications and medicine.  It helps doctors and medical staff exchange information, making consultations with specialists available even to patients and doctors in remote regions of the world.

For example:

  • Project Tristan permits doctors in remote islands in the middle of the South Atlantic to consult with specialists in the United States.
  • In 2001, a surgeon in New York performed a gall-bladder removal on a patient in Paris using a robotic-surgery system called Da Vinci.

As technology increasingly improves, the emphasis of telemedicine is expected to shift from acute to chronic conditions, and from treatment to prevention.  The future of telemedicine lies with telehealth and teleprevention, says the Economist. 

For example:

  • BodyTel has developed censors based on Bluetooth wireless technology that can measure glucose levels, blood pressure, and weight, and then upload the data to a secure web server.
  • Honeywell has devised a system that patients can use at home to measure peak flow from their lungs, oxygen saturation, and blood pressure, in order to monitor conditions ranging from lung disease to congestive heart failure.
  • Since 2006, Britain has spent $160 million on preventative technology grants which provide special equipment to enable 160,000 elderly people to stay in their homes.
  • William Kaiser of the University of California at Los Angeles has developed a "smart cane," which can help monitor and advise people convalescing at home.
  • Oliver Goh of Implemenia created a system of censors, strategically placed throughout the home, which allow observers to keep tabs on elderly people.

Source: "Telemedicine Comes Home," The Economist, June 5, 2008.

For text:


Browse more articles on Health Issues