For many, the notion of telemedicine evokes the image of a doctor in the wilds, armed with only a cell phone, a stethoscope and a laptop, transmitting medical data to a modern hospital and receiving life-saving information in return. Two recent expeditions that took Yale physicians to Mt. Everest to test telemedicine concepts and tools have cemented that concept, as has Yale’s participation in a mobile surgical unit that uses telemedicine to bring health care to the jungles of Ecuador. But practitioners say telemedicine also may be as mundane as a second opinion obtained over the phone or consultations with physicians in rural areas where specialists are scarce.
Spyros G. Condos, D.Med., M.B.A., the director of the newly created Yale Office of Telemedicine, is in no hurry to define the topic. “The moment you define it,” he says, “you start limiting it.” The School of Medicine recently announced the appointment of Condos, an assistant professor of surgery, as director. Also appointed were Johanna Selles, R.N., Ed.D., as business manager, and Richard S. Stahl, M.D., M.B.A., as medical director.
According to Joseph B. Warshaw, M.D., deputy dean for clinical affairs, the new office formalizes and coordinates what had been a diffuse set of projects throughout the medical school. “It was departmental,” said Condos, “and sometimes one department doesn’t know what the other is doing.” The office will serve as a clearinghouse and resource center for telemedicine programs throughout the medical school. Its goal is a marriage of medical knowledge and information technology that will provide the best in clinical care domestically and overseas, while also training physicians around the world. Selles said the office is developing projects in Saudi Arabia, the Philippines, Greece, China, South Africa and India.
“We want to help people by providing information on how to accomplish their goals in telemedicine projects,” says Stahl, “This medical center is rich in educational content and has a lot to offer people and places.”