Telemedicine: A Tool to Close Socioeconomic Gaps and Meet the Demands of Patients through Online Communication and Portable Devices 

What is Telemedicine?

Dr. Jeanine Turner  | Georgetown Department of Communication, Culture, and Technology


Professor Turner is interested in how communication technology can change the message being delivered. She has conducted research on how the advent of new tools such as videoconferencing, email, social media, and text messaging has changed modern communication. Specifically in terms of telemedicine, she found that the perception of telemedicine and willingness to use it are different by age, level of education, employment, and even gender (Turner et al, 2004). Through her survey-based studies in the Appalachian Ohio region, she points out how telemedicine technology influences current methods of communication and may change our perception of: 1. location, 2. virtual organization, management guidelines, 3. physician education, and 4. the relation between doctor and patient. Her concerns can direct our thoughts about the future of hospitals and their infrastructures.

Dr. Jay Parkinson | M.D., M.P.H., C.E.O. of Sherpaa


Dr. Parkinson is a pediatrician and an entrepreneur based in Brooklyn, New York. After his residency in pediatrics at St. Vincent’s Hospital in New York and receiving a M.P.H. in Preventative Medicine from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, he started a private practice with an innovative concept. His patients schedule directly on his website, Sherpaa, and leave detailed notes about their symptoms. In response, Dr. Parkinson makes a quick house visit or holds a videoconference to see his patients and make diagnoses. The mission of his original practice was to incorporate creativity and open mindedness to utilizing simple devices, like a smart phone, for efficient medical practice. In addition, he founded HelloHealth, a social networking tool not only between doctors and patients to share medical records and to connect via email, IM, and videochat, but also between specialists in medicine for doctors to share expertise. He has been recognized as one of the top 10 most creative people in healthcare.


The first hour of the lecture will be a videochat with Dr. Parkinson. As a start, he can explain his philosophy about incorporating digital media for easier communication between patients and doctors and also amongst doctors. In addition, as an advocate of telemedicine in private practice, he can explain the efficiency of health clinics and how he has allocated the budgets differently than he would have with a traditional practice. He and his colleagues’ real-life experiences can be anecdotal evidence to the cost-efficiency of telemedicine. Then, Dr. Parkinson can demonstrate one mock telemedicine consultation with one of the students in the class for a live experience. This vicarious participation will allow the audience to see for themselves the differences and the similarities between telemedicine consultations and regular in-office doctor visits. Then, we can open up the floor for Q&A.

Additionally, Professor Turner will give a lecture about her academic findings through teleconferencing methods. She will first explain the broad definition of telemedicine and further define the differences between synchronous and asynchronous methods. Synchronous is real-time communication using videoconferencing devices or phones. Asynchronous communication is through social media or information packed websites like WebMD. She can then further educate the audience on her research involving new communication technology in the field of medicine, specifically the four concerns she has categorized in her publications, for example, the location, organization, and guidelines. She can provide insights about the impact of proliferation of telemedicine on healthcare policies, especially as the Affordable Care Act has increased funding for the use of telemedicine in rural areas of the U.S. and in U.S. prisons. Furthermore, with the growing awareness on the cost-efficiency of telemedicine, “telemedicine centers” or “health centers” are built in rural areas of the world instead of hospitals. Urban designers and architects who focus on socially responsible designs are thinking of ways to bring new technologies without disrupting the community and their culture. So, a further discussion on how design strategies can incorporate telemedicine devices and also enhance community health may be interesting.

Along with the policy changes, Professor Turner could address how the American medical education system must change in order to prepare future physicians to correctly communicate through devices that are different than traditional methods of communication with patients. Discussion about education can also lead to two related topics, first, how an increase in clinicians such as Physician Assistants and Nurse Practitioners can be a remedy for an increasing healthcare gap in the U.S., and second, methods for educating doctors in developing countries through teleconference tools to improve global health. Lastly, she can then further elaborate on the economic benefits of telemedicine, comparing the statistical data from states that have extensive government support to use telemedicine, such as: North Carolina, Georgia, and specifically where she conducted her studies, Appalachian Ohio.

Transduction Themes

With a rise of telemedicine many facets of health care will be affected: medical education, patient-doctor interactions, a design plan for health centers, health care policies, and the role of medical software with high security. The human interfaces, the patient and the doctor will be mediated by technological media such as cameras, phones, emails, and other software and devices.  The traditional signals at the doctor’s office, such as touch, odor, and body language will be replaced by new text-based or image-based digital signals. Session themes include media/communication, devices, medicine, economics, community health, national and international health care policies, and socially responsible design. Although we do not have specific sessions delegated for topics on medicine, economy, and computer science, with our diverse expertise and interests in the class pertaining to these themes, we can add depth to our discussion on Thursday.



Proposed by SunHye Park.