Telemedicine offers permanent education and practical etiquette for doctors

Augusta 21 January 1997 As the Georgia Statewide Telemedicine Programme is being established, a growing need occurs amongst physicians to take away their uncertainties about treating real patients via the system. The Telemedicine Centre of the Medical College of Georgia (MCG) has developed a specific training course in order to give doctors a chance to examine "mock" patients via telemedicine and to learn typical telemedicine etiquette. For this mission, "patients" are being prepared to participate in the new Standardised Patient Programme that is funded by 1 million dollars made available through The Distance Learning and Telemedicine Act of 1992.

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As the Georgia Statewide Telemedicine Programme is being established, a growing need occurs amongst physicians to take away their uncertainties about treating real patients via the system. The Telemedicine Centre of the Medical College of Georgia (MCG) has developed a specific training course in order to give doctors a chance to examine "mock" patients via telemedicine and to learn typical telemedicine etiquette. For this mission, "patients" are being prepared to participate in the new Standardised Patient Programme that is funded by 1 million dollars made available through The Distance Learning and Telemedicine Act of 1992.

Out of the fifty nine health care and correctional facilities that will eventually link with one another in a technological network set up by the MCG Telemedicine Centre, thirty one sites currently are operational while forty have been actually installed. With the integration of the system reaching its completion, health care providers increasingly insist on having technical, operational and follow-up training before they begin seeing or presenting patients for consults.

In order to sharpen the physicians' patient interaction, the MCG telemedicine staff is organising an extensive four and a half day course where participants learn about protocols and procedures with regard to telemedical consultations. Doctors are getting hands-on training with instruments such as otoscopes and ophtalmoscopes to examine ears and eyes of the patient as if he were present in the same room with them. Since practice makes perfect, they also have to get used to making adequate contact with the patient.

Indeed, they need to exercise conscious natural behaviour in front of a camera. For instance, they have to keep an upper chest shot of themselves on the monitor instead of just a "talking head". If they are to create direct eye contact, it will not happen by gazing into the patient's face on the video monitor but by looking straight into the camera. This kind of training is required for telemedicine and backup coordinators while both health care providers and administrators are kindly invited to attend. Since most trainees are unable to make themselves available for several days, the course has been limited to half a day.

In order to enhance the virtual reality value of the training, MCG is hiring "patients" who are able to present their own medical history and who are familiar with the signs and symptoms of medical problems. People are selected from each hub site area as to allow scheduling courses for care takers who move into these and surrounding locations. The hub site coordinator only has to contact the Telemedicine Standardised Patient Programme Coordinator to organise the actual training. More news about the educational approach to telemedicine is out there at the Telemedicine Centre site of the Medical College of Georgia.


Leslie Versweyveld

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