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Telemedicine probably isnít what you think it is. Forget Starship Voyager and its holographic physician and technology that suddenly pushes old-fashioned medicine into oblivion. Proponents will tell you that telemedicine is not about technology at all. Itís about using technology -- anything from an ordinary telephone to an ingestible biosensor -- to extend the reach of medical practitioners and to support new applications of standard medical procedures.

Anywhere, Anytime Diagnoses

Christine Ford had driven down from Delaware to attend the American Public Health Associationís annual conference in Washington, DC. But, when she tried to take a photograph, she noticed a problem. As she looked through the cameraís viewfinder, she saw what appeared to be a black curtain covering half the lens. Fordís colleague quickly directed her to the conference booth sponsored by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office for the Advancement of Telehealth (OAT). There, technicians were demonstrating a retinopathy screening program using a mobile digital retinal camera like the ones used in rural areas where eye specialists are scarce. The healthcare technician captured images of both of Fordís eyes and showed them to her on the computer. 

ďThe pictures told the story,Ē said Ford. ďI didnít need to be a doctor. I saw right away that the right eye looked radically different from the left.Ē


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