Tuesday AM February 17th, 2009
by: Ed Mayberry, February 16, 2009 11:02:00 pm
Telemedicine has been around for a while, helping make healthcare available in locations where it takes hours to get to the nearest doctor. But now InPlace Medical Solutions from Houston-based NuPhysicia is bringing telemedicine technology to offshore rigs and platforms. Dr. Glenn Hammock is with the company, which licenses two-way videoconferencing concepts developed by UTMB.
"I think one of the first big applications was in the prison health care program that UTMB has run successfully for the state of Texas now for a decade-and-a-half—almost two decades. And it's really been a strong contributor to that. That's where we learned a lot."
Oil rigs are equipped with a high-quality TV camera, as well as various scopes you might find in a typical doctor's office, and images are sent in real-time. Blood samples can be analyzed remotely.
"We're starting with the best systems that share the highest amount of information,visually through the videoconferencing link, very high-quality examination scopes that are really usually used in operating rooms, things like the live telestethescope. We are truly one the pioneers in taking that small sample — what's called 'point of care' laboratory testing — taking it out safely and effectively into the remote environment."
Dr. Oscar Boultinghouse is able to diagnose and treat an oilfield worker, for example, in offshore Malaysia.
"I would receive a call from the answering service. Typically I'm working from home. I would find my electronic medical record up, and let me open the mic here, and we'll chat with these folks. We have full camera control on the other side, and I'm able to switch between cameras. John, let's use the dermiscope. Wow, we actually you found a lesion, very good! Let's listen to a healthy heart."
There are limitations, particularly with abdominal examinations, but physicians say they are able to do about 85 per cent of what they could do in their own clinics.
Ed Mayberry, KUHF Houston Public Radio News.