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Selling the Public on Telemedicine


One man has set out to educate the state of Mississippi on how telemedicine can benefit them. He explains this unique job in a Q&A.

Chip Templeton, telehealth education manager at Mississippi State University Extension Service, is a unique kind of salesman. He sells the idea of telemedicine. The extension service program, sends out advocates for different concepts - farming, wildlife, or in this case, telemedicine - to educate the public on how to use those ideas in their respective regions. Considering a recent survey from HealthMine, a consumer engagement technology company, indicated that 41 percent of consumers do not know what telemedicine is, some education on it isn't a bad idea.

Even though he doesn't have a background in healthcare, Templeton was tasked with telemedicine a few years back. He bought into the idea and says he has a talent for getting people to do the same. He recently talked with Physicians Practice on his role as a telemedicine educator.

Physicians Practice: Who are you educating on telehealth?

Chip Templeton: Sometimes it's the folks at Mississippi State University on how they can take their programs within the university and apply telehealth. We educate our extension agents, so they can be an advocate for using telehealth in our schools or places of business [as part of an employer-provided health plan]. We want to aggregate the demand for the use of telehealth

I'll speak to anyone on the idea of telehealth. I'm the pied piper of telehealth in Mississippi. I want everyone to consider using it.

PP: Are you selling them on the idea?

CT: I guess you could say that. I believe in the idea of telehealth. I'm not on commission or anything like that.

PP: Explain the difference between telehealth and telemedicine as you see it?

CT: In my opinion, telemedicine is basically where a patient is involved. Using the technology between one point and another point. It’s about the patient’s health. Telehealth is an overall umbrella, from mobile health (mHealth) to teleconferencing, or anything else in that realm.

PP: What's the biggest resistance you've seen against telehealth/telemedicine in rural communities?

CT: Some people are just not sure how to get started with it. It's like a duck on water, once they step out there and get on water, they are happy with it. It’s fear of the unknown. Honestly though, I don’t think there is as much resistance towards it. I am sure it sounds trite, [but] this is something where everyone wins. I don't see a downside. It excites me because I think this is answer to our healthcare issues. This use of telemedicine.

PP: What can be done to make it more widespread?

CT: I think more people being aware of it. That's why the extension service can be good for this, we have voices in every county. We can bring the message to do this.

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