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Telemedicine could be the future of healthcare in rural areas

Posted at 11:31 PM, Nov 11, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-12 23:23:43-05

We've all heard a lot about social distancing, keeping space between us and others to keep from spreading germs, but what happens in a hospital setting where doctors have to treat patients?

Coryell Health became one of the first hospitals in Central Texas to embrace telemedicine. Instead of traveling to a hospital or office, a doctor can appear on a screen or an iPhone.

Sandy Brooks learned about it when she woke up to a bad allergy day. She needed a doctor and never had to leave her living room.

"It's mainly all in my head. It's congestion, headache, sneezing," she said into her phone.

At Coryell Hospital, Dr. Amanda Dirk oversaw Brooks' examination through a computer screen.

Telemedicine has made a splash in the medical world thanks to the coronavirus. Coryell Health put it into operation, providing healthcare over a screen.

Doctors say they can provide the same care on TV as in an in person visit.

"The goal is to be able to see the patient, interact with the patient, and the nice thing is with the technology is we have clear images of patients. We have a physical overview besides just a phone conversation," explained Dr. Dirk.

Hospital leaders say telemedicine has an important place in the future of rural healthcare.

"We had actually been thinking about telehealth and kind of had it in the works in our short term plan, but we definitely put our foot on the gas for this," said Carly Latham of Coryell Health.

Telemedicine provides efficiency for doctors and saves patients a lot of time.

”We spend about the same amount of time interacting. I think it lowers the patient's overall time because they don't have to come to the clinic,” said Dr. Dirk.

A few counties away, Limestone Medical Center is preparing its own roll out of telemedicine. They say soon everyone will have this capability.

Sandy Brooks says it's like a house call on video.

"I may never go to a doctor again. They can come to me," she laughed.

Coryell Health says it will continue using telemedicine even after the COVID-`19 crisis is over because it's an efficient way to help patients with minor problems.