Video Dial-a-Doctor seen easing shortage in rural US

September 7, 2012

(Credit: MDLive)

A half-dozen U.S. states are turning to telemedicine to address a shortage of doctors in rural areas, a gap the Obama administration has said is a serious health-care shortcoming, Bloomberg reports.

Medical provider Sentara Healthcare and MDLive, a remote technology developer, to provide remote care to more than 2 million people in the Southeast.

Ware County, Georgia has installed videoconferencing equipment at all 10 of its schools to give its 5,782 students one-on-one access to physicians. Telemedicine sites for adults have also sprung in the area. Instead of taking a full day off from work or school, residents can now regularly see their specialist online.

The program places Georgia among a half-dozen U.S. states turning to telemedicine to address a shortage of doctors in rural areas. While about a quarter of Americans live in rural areas, only 9 percent of doctors work there, according to the nonprofit National Rural Health Association. And within just 16 months, the 2010 U.S. health-care law will start adding as many as 15 million more people to health insurance rolls, further taxing already spotty care.

Patients using the system sit in front of mobile carts that are fitted with screens and speakers, Guy said in a telephone interview. The carts also carry stethoscopes and other devices for examinations that are carried out by local nurses. More than 185 doctors in the state work with the system, providing consultations on 40 different specialties.

MDLive also offers a service for homes, using a computer and webcam, or via phone.