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Telemedicine: Just What The Doctor Ordered For NV Rurals?

Doctor On Demand/NPR

Could telemedicine be the answer to health care in rural Nevada.

It’s not getting any easier to find good health care in rural Nevada.

Tonopah’s hospital closed, though the Renown Medical Group from Reno is trying to bring some help to the area.

But many Nevada residents live deep in the desert, sometimes hundreds of miles from the nearest doctor. What about them?

One of the newest trends in healthcare, however, might offer a way to address the problem.

It’s called telemedicine.

Next week, Las Vegas hosts a conference on telemedicine convention called Connect. Communicate. Care.

Dr. Bruce Hensel, former chief medical correspondent for NBC-Los Angeles, will host the conference. He says telemedicine would be a great boon for rural Nevada.

Hensel told KNPR's State of Nevada that telemedicine will "not only speed up care, but it will improve results, save lives," and make a major difference.

The kind of telemedicine he's talking about is not an individual looking up symptoms on WebMD, but doctors and nurses using secure networks to conference with medical experts on diagnosis and treatments. 

He said that only 10 percent of physicians in the U.S. practice in rural areas but 25 percent of the population lives in rural areas. 

"They're not getting the care they need, but this could help," Hensel said. 

It could also help lure doctors to rural areas. Currently, many doctors don't choose to work in rural areas because they don't have many of the same tools as doctors in big centers do.  

With access to the same experts as a big hospital, they can practice better medicine. 

Hensel also said telemedicine could provide language services for patients who don't speak English and it could save money by providing preventative care before someone becomes seriously ill. 



Dr. Bruce Hensel, former chief medical correspondent, NBC-Los Angeles

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Joe Schoenmann joined Nevada Public Radio in 2014. He works with a talented team of producers at State of Nevada who explore the casino industry, sports, politics, public health and everything in between.