Originally created 01/17/97

Doctor advocates telemedicine safety



Patients should receive quality care whether their doctor is with them or hundreds of miles away, Dr. Max Stachura says.

With the growth of telemedicine - where doctors and patients can see and hear each other with the help of digital technology - steps need to be taken to safeguard patients and doctors, said Dr. Stachura, director of the Telemedicine Center at the Medical College of Georgia.

Some of those first steps are being taken in Atlanta, where state Sen. Charles Walker, D-Augusta, is working on legislation that would require physicians who use telemedicine in Georgia - either in Georgia or another state - to have the same training as licensed Georgia physicians.

And with Augusta a leading force in the state for telemedicine many local physicians such as Dr. Stachura will be keeping close tabs on Mr. Walker's proposal.

"This will protect the citizens and physicians of Georgia from people who setting up shop in (remote cities) and treating patients in Augusta without ever seeing them" Dr. Stachura said.

Many physicians, particularly those in remote areas not served by a major medical center, are looking to telemedicine as a means for communicating with medical specialists.

But because the technology is so new, there are very few existing standards for its use, Dr. Stachura said.

He wants to make sure that the technology delivers the ability to treat patients with the same care as a face-to-face visit. "If you do these things telemedicine offers the opportunity to save all kinds of time and money," he said.

Mr. Walker said he hopes to introduce the bill the week of Jan. 27. "There are some (health maintenance organizations) that might be opposed to it but most of the people I've talked to have supported it," he said.