Today, telemedicine is a widely accepted premise as it rapidly takes on new applications across health care delivery. But in 1960, when the seed of the innovation was planted, it was a revolutionary—even out-of-reach—idea.

The notion was born of necessity: Following a tragic airplane crash following takeoff from Logan Airport, health authorities built an onsite airport clinic to triage victims when first-responders struggled to reach the scene. Though it became apparent that the clinic could not employ its full-time physician, Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) internist Kenneth Bird, MD, on an ongoing basis, the ability to treat employees and passengers on-site at the airport was recognized as beneficial. It got Dr. Bird thinking: What if a camera at Logan could connect to a camera at the MGH emergency room, where he could examine patients remotely?

Dr. Bird was able to break through initial skepticism, work with the Federal Communications Commission to establish a broadcast channel—and telemedicine was born. The Logan station transmitted patient images and data, enabling MGH patients to diagnose and treat patients at the airport until 1970, when funding was eliminated. But the seeds that would eventually lead to remote diagnostic imaging, digital conferencing, and remote stroke care were already planted.

Read more at Proto.

Topics: Innovation, Access to Care, Global Impact

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