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With Telemedicine, No Need to Leave Home to See a Doctor

From VOA Learning English, this is the Health Report.

Telemedicine is the name for when doctors give advice to patients by telephone or the Internet. It also describes when health care providers in rural areas connect with specialists in big cities.

Telemedicine has existed for a long time. But the rise of smartphones, tablets and webcam-equipped computers is raising telemedicine to new levels. Some health care systems in the United States now offer virtual urgent care. Patients see a doctor by video chat without having to leave home.

Diana Rae is a nurse educator in the northwestern state of Washington. She recently demonstrated how virtual urgent care works. She used an iPad tablet and Skype, the video chat service, to have a virtual appointment with Dr. Ben Green. He had the "patient" describe her symptoms. Dr. Green decided that the problem was a sinus infection after having her perform a facial exam that he demonstrated. For medicine, he prescribed an antibiotic.

Dr. Green says about three out of four of his patients have health problems that can be treated like this, through virtual urgent care. That means a video chat could replace a visit to the doctor's office in some cases. Dr. Green treats patients by Skype for the Franciscan Health System based in Tacoma, Washington. It operates hospitals and other health care facilities. Franciscan charges $35 for this kind of virtual house call. That is much less than the cost of going to an emergency room, a doctor's office or an urgent care clinic. After trying the video conference, Diana Rae says she would have been happy to pay the $35 when she was recently home with a bad cold.