As telemedicine grows increasingly accepted by doctors, patients, and insurers alike, one of the terms certain to be used is store-and-forward technology. That allows for the electronic transmission of medical information such as photos, X-rays, MRIs, video-exam clips, and patient documents through secure email transmission.
Typically, store-and-forward transactions occur between medical professionals to help in diagnosis without an in-person visit or live video contact.
In practice, this would, for example, enable a family doctor in rural Pennsylvania to snap a photo of a patient’s mystery rash, email it to a dermatologist in a major city for review, and consult on a diagnosis. The patient didn’t have to wait weeks or months to see a specialist, didn’t have to miss work for an appointment, and didn’t have to travel a long distance for care.
Because it doesn’t require all parties involved to be in the same room, its use is growing in the practice of radiology, dermatology, ophthalmology, and pathology, according to the Center for Connected Health Policy.
- In radiology, physicians can forward X-rays or MRIs to specialists at major medical centers for review
- In dermatology, family doctors can take photos of their patients’ skin conditions and forward to dermatologists for review and diagnosis
- In ophthalmology, eye screenings for diabetic retinopathy—a major cause of blindness for diabetics—can be captured digitally by retinal cameras and transmitted to a specialist for review
- In pathology, digital images or video can be uploaded and sent to specialists for diagnosis, second opinions, and even research
Store-and-forward technology can benefit patients and medical providers. It lessens the wait time for specialty care, particularly in rural areas with shortages of medical specialists, and it lets patients get that care without traveling far from their family doctors. It allows doctors to review patient cases from any location at a time convenient to them and provide access to specialty care to patients they might never have been able to reach previously.
As always, check with your medical insurance plan to determine if telemedicine’s store-and-forward services are covered. Some commercial insurers in Pennsylvania offer it as a covered benefit under certain plans.