Thursday, June 13

Telemedicine Could Be Revolutionizing Sports Medicine

The possibilities the internet provides are virtually limitless. People now have greater, faster access to information, and can easily communicate with one another with little more than a mobile device and an internet connection. Applications such as Viber and Google + have eclipsed the need for expensive cell phone plans, while Skype and other secure video and audio programs allow real face-to-face interaction. In addition, several other programs are continuously solicited to the public that change the way people think about interacting with one another.

These technological advances have even proven helpful for doctors, particularly sports medicine professionals. Called telemedicine, the use of video and audio tools and apps on smartphones, mobile devices, cameras and computers are taking diagnosis to a whole new level. A recent HealthLeaders Media report shows that telemedicine practices are increasing rapidly in sports medicine.

Many athletic trainers are working with patients remotely, having athletes enter telemedicine booths, where a camera on a mobile device can pan, tilt, or zoom in on the injury for easier viewing. Based on the scale of the injury and its appearance, as well as additional information from the patient about symptoms, these trainers are making diagnoses over the internet.

The use of telemedicine is part of a growing trend of new technologies making their way into the sports world. At a recent International Consumer Electronics Show, researchers presented a device that fits underneath a football player’s helmet to detect excessive damage to the head, primarily aimed at identifying concussions. The sensors within the head garment measure the level of direct rotational and horizontal acceleration to a player’s head, and a light appears in either red or yellow based on the severity of the damage. Trainers and medical professionals can then make a more accurate diagnosis when speaking to these athletes about their symptoms, as concussions can be hard to discern from other head injuries.

Coaches and athletic trainers can be trained on how technologies like this work, and administer them during road games when the team is away from familiar doctors and hospitals. They can work with a doctor or expert to explain the results over a video conference, which can speed up treatment, leading to faster recovery.

There were initially some concerns over Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) compliance with telemedicine, but these were quelled by new software that meets HIPAA regulations. These programs can be used on any mobile device, and remain within HIPAA requirements. This ensures that the athlete is given the right to private health care that meets the same standards as any medical facility.

Telemedicine could have a significant impact on the development of sports medicine in the coming years. As technology advances in this field, patients could see increasingly accurate diagnoses and treatments, and a reduction in the amount of time spent in recovery because of the level of communication telemedicine allows. Eventually, telemedicine may become an option for all physicians and patients, not just sports medicine professionals.

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