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9 Telemedicine Tools Set to Transform Health Care

Robots, smartphone apps and drones are changing how we get treatment

  • Doctor speaking with a patient through a video call
    Phanie / Alamy Stock Photo

    New ways to engage with your doctor remotely

    En español | Telemedicine electronically connects patients and doctors who are not in the same room — or even in the same state. It enables doctors to diagnose and treat patients remotely, via apps and Internet-based tools. Here are some of the latest developments, as well as a look at what we may see in the near future.

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  • Skin cancer exam
    Peter Dazeley/Getty Images

    Identify skin cancer from a distance

    Use the free Mole Mapper iPhone app and your phone’s camera to snap pictures of suspicious moles and monitor them over time. Share those images with your doctor, who can determine if they might be cancerous. Be sure to get in-person checkups and tests as well. An app can’t diagnose disease, at least not yet. You can also opt to share those images with cancer researchers and contribute to the fight against melanoma, a deadly form of skin cancer.

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  • Patient and doctor having a video call consultation
    Blend Images / Alamy Stock Photo

    Virtual house calls

    Connect. Parkinson is a pilot program that brings the neurologist into the home via live video calls on a computer, smartphone or tablet. It’s currently being studied, and if virtual visits prove as effective as in-person visits, this type of house call could allow patients to discuss medications, symptoms and other concerns, all without the burden of schlepping to the doctor’s office.

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  • Doctor checking exam results
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    Video ear exams

    Got an earache? Grab your phone, attach the $79 CellScope Oto HOME device and capture video of what’s happening inside your ear canal. The accompanying app then uploads the footage to an on-call physician, who can diagnose what’s troubling you, including infections, earwax blockages that can cause dizziness and more.

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  • Man scanning his eye
    Martin McCarthy - Theasis

    Eye implants

    Stanford engineers have designed implantable sensors —- currently in the experimental stage and likely a few years from completion — to monitor your eyes for increases in pressure, a risk factor for glaucoma and vision loss. Your smartphone connects with your doctor’s office to transmit data from the implanted device, allowing you to skip frequent in-person eye exams.

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  • First aid drone

    Medical drones taking flight

    Unmanned aerial vehicles — better known as drones — can deliver medical supplies effectively and efficiently to remote locations, according to recent studies. That may just be the beginning. Someday, they may be able to fly in a defibrillator or other emergency medical care faster than an ambulance can negotiate traffic.

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  • female hand holding a white phone with health card

    Medical research done remotely

    Using only your iPhone, the MyHeart Counts app allows you to participate in a medical study being conducted by Stanford researchers, who have already enrolled thousands of participants — both healthy and with heart problems — to better understand and control heart disease. Researchers at the University of Rochester, meanwhile, offer the opportunity to take part in a Parkinson’s study via their Parkinson mPower app.

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  • Medical robot

    The robot will see you now

    From iRobot, makers of the Roomba autonomous vacuum cleaner, and InTouch Health comes this FDA-approved robot that does patient rounds in the hospital. It navigates its way down hallways and zips from room to room, allowing doctors to communicate with bedridden patients — as well as with hospital staff — via an attached video monitor.

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  • Scanadu device
    Kim Kulish/Corbis

    Star Trek tech

    Much like Dr. McCoy’s medical tricorder, the still-in-development Scanadu Scout aims to measure — noninvasively — a variety of vital signs and bodily functions in real time, including heart rate, body temperature, blood pressure, urinalysis and more. Touch it to your forehead and it beams data to a smartphone app, which you likely will be able to easily share with your doctor.

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  • Biostamp medical patch

    Stuck on you

    Tattoo-like patches — unobtrusive and affixed to the skin — may soon be available to offer constant monitoring of your vital signs, data you and your doctor can track. The BioStampRC is one example. It features flexible circuitry that moves with the skin and sensors that measure everything from blood pressure to brain waves depending on where it’s placed on the body.

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(Video) How to Talk to Your Doctor: Experts share their best tips on how to talk to your doctor, make sure your concerns are heard, and get the best care on your visits.