Telemedicine is child's play

And it's growing fast, says a leading voice in the field
By Eric Wicklund
03:42 PM
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stethoscopes connected with wifi signal

When it comes to helping children, telemedicine is well up to the task, thank you very much.

Craig Sable, director of echocardiography and telemedicine at Washington D.C.'s Children's National Medical Center, should know. His program does some 1,500 consultations a year, operating through 24 telemedicine sites in seven states. And he has consulting privileges in 25 hospitals in seven states.

Speaking at Monday's Cisco Connected Health Summit, part of the HIMSS15 Annual Conference and Exhibition, Sable painted a broad picture of telemedicine reaching into and saving the lives of children from here to Guam – and in several remote countries in between. From emergency and intensive care to orthopedic surgery to dermatology to behavioral health, it's being used to link physicians and specialists at Children's National to their tiniest patients, no matter where they're located.

"The good news is I can be available anywhere any time," he said. "The bad news is I have to be available anywhere and at any time."

This concept of "everything connected to everything" – the so-called Internet of Everything – is pushing telemedicine in all new directions, Sable said, especially in home-based monitoring and direct-to-consumer services and devices. "And it's coming to a shopping mall and a drugstore near you," he said

But it's not without its challenges.

"The obstacles are pretty significant," he said. All 50 states may allow some sort of telemedicine, Sable said, but each state has different criteria and guidelines, with some veering far toward the restrictive.

Sable noted that only seven states scored an 'A' on a telemedicine report card issued by the American Telemedicine Association, and only 10 states offer a telemedicine license. He credited the ATA with developing a program for accrediting telemedicine providers.

"Overall, this will improve healthcare, not diminish it," he said.

As for the future? Sable mentioned smart diapers, smart eyeglasses and, of course, the Apple Watch, all of which will, sooner or later, improve the delivery of healthcare to children. And adults, for that matter.