Medical aid at your fingertips

Created: 03/18/2014 11:42 AM
By: Erika Edwards, NBC News

(NBC News) -- Whether it's an exam via laptop or swipe of a smartphone, many people are finding they don't have to go too far out of their way to talk to a doctor.

Telemedicine is extending the reach of doctors beyond the walls of their office or hospital.

"A lot of times a lot of those resources are trapped in one large facility in a metro area, so extending that off into the community maybe 50, 60 miles into a rural population -- that's a very big deal," says Steve Cashman.

Cashman founded HealthSpot, Inc. -- kiosks stationed around communities that allow patients to see doctors through video connections.

The Cleveland Clinic is experimenting with another program that uses a local cable company to access patients through televisions in their living rooms.

"We have connected into the home via the television, so we can actually see the patient at home, and talk to them and they can see us at the same time," explains Cleveland Clinic CEO Dr. Toby Cosgrove.

Others are turning to their smartphones, using apps like HealthTap.

It doesn't replace an office visit, but gives users basic health information.

"Millions of people are using HealthTap right now and are asking our more than 50,000 physicians questions literally every second," says HealthTap founder Ron Gutman.

Telemedicine visits are usually reserved for minor illnesses like ear infections and strep throat, but could also be used for follow-up appointments with specialists.

Photo: NBC News

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