Telemedicine, which is all about communicating with a doctor or nurse virtually (typically by phone or video chat), might seem like a total no-brainer in an age of smartphones. Moreover, many Americans live miles away from the nearest medical center, or can’t afford a pricey trip to the emergency room. And that includes prison inmates, who are often located in the most rural parts of the country.
So it’s not all that surprising that the Medical University of South Carolina is using teleconferencing tools to enable its doctors at its Charleston hospital to examine inmates remotely—and from hundreds of miles away. According to the Associated Press, the doctors are diagnosing disease without physically examining the patient. This effort is intended to save money—it’s costly when a prisoner is transported with multiple officers to a nearby hospital—as well as reduce security risks. It also means the inmates have access to top specialists.