Remotely looking over the doctor’s shoulder

Check out MPR News reporter Tom Robertson’s piece today on inroads telemedicine is making into rural health care.

Sioux Falls-based Avera has signed up 62 Midwestern hospitals for a service that lets a doctor see an emergency room miles away and lend advice.

“They can use my expertise working in a busy ER and busy trauma center, where I see things quite frequently that somebody in a smaller community might not see more than once a year,” Dr. Garrett Taylor, who works out of Sioux Falls, told Robertson.

The hope is that a local hospital can avoid transferring patients to other hospitals for some kinds of treatment and, thus, save money.

Another way to look at it is that Avera is trying to bring some standardization to emergency room care. And if you want to go down that road, there’s an interesting conversation starter in the New Yorker by medical writer Atul Gawande, a piece called Big Med.

Gawande thinks the medical business has a lot to learn from the Cheesecake Factory and other American food chains that take standardization to new levels.