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Telemedicine: A Perfect Partnership in Saving Money and Time

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Success stories are regular features of The Motley Fool's Rule Your Retirement newsletter service, where we share profiles of people who have become financially independent. One of the most remarkable stories we've come across is that of Akaisha and Billy Kaderli, who retired two decades ago at the age of 38 and began traveling the world. They wrote the popular books The Adventurer's Guide to Early Retirement and Your Retirement Dream IS Possible.

We are self-reliant. We always have been and it's an approach we prefer.

However, there are times when we need to ask for help, and a good example is in the arena of health care. Does that mean we need to schedule a doctor's appointment for every symptom or ache we have? With today's technology, we have access to medical information and are able to "self-diagnose" most of the common things that we encounter, plus some not-so-common things like knee injuries, lower back issues, or a pinched nerve.

Proactive health care
In our books we list the medical devices we carry with us as we travel. This includes a thermometer, a TENS unit, ace bandages, a "doc box" of pain meds, muscle relaxers, antibiotics, aspirin, and some miscellaneous personal meds. So what happens when we have an issue that we cannot resolve on our own?

We research reliable medical information sites on the Internet such as those from Mayo Clinic, WebMD, and other respected organizations. When several sites give us corresponding information, we can feel confident that the data we are consuming is accurate. Still, there are times when we would like to consult a medical doctor in order to get a more trained analysis. In our journeys outside the U.S., we can just walk into a clinic without an appointment to see a medical professional. It's easy and affordable.

The future is now
But there is something both exciting and practical under way called telemedicine.

Recently we read an article that explained the United Kingdom's plan to establish a new system of "virtual clinics" where general practitioners will connect with patients via iPads and Skype. This is a very successful idea that is being imported from India and will save the U.K.'s National Health Service billions of dollars.

But this is nothing new. In 2005, the insurance commissioner of the state of Georgia secured a grant to set up a telemedicine system in 40 hospitals and clinics. If a child in rural Georgia needs to see a doctor, it's now possible for him to go to the nurse's office at school. With the videoconferencing equipment available, he and the nurse speak to a pediatrician hundreds of miles away. In half an hour, a child can be seen, diagnosed, and treated without the inconvenience and time expense of parents having to drive to a physician's office in the next town.

Programs such as these are spreading to nursing homes, prisons, and urban schools, too. The use of telehealth and mobile technologies can prevent unnecessary hospital stays through better management of a patient's health before it becomes so serious as to require emergency medical intervention.

That's nice. How can I benefit?
We realize this may be an odd concept for many of you and we respect that. No one is asking you to forgo seeing your doctor face-to-face. But as an alternative and perhaps a pre-emptive action, telehealth could save you time and money. You could be located in any state -- or any country, for that matter -- and still receive medical advice from an experienced and trained physician through these online services.

Other annoying factors alleviated
Most of you have had the experience of waiting an hour or more for your doctor even though you have a scheduled appointment. Regardless of the reasons for this long wait, that misspent hour is a waste of your time and it's money lost in lack of productivity. Not to mention the time spent traveling to and from their office. Who wants to be a pawn in the system with no ability to change it? Most people in the waiting rooms are sick, and that can't be good for your condition, either. Wouldn't it be nice to simply speak with a doctor detailing your symptoms and then move forward from there?

Chances are you don't have some rare undiscovered disease. More likely you are suffering from a common ailment that the physician can alleviate. But even if you have something serious, at this level of appointment you would receive more information before moving on to a specialist.

In our world today, telemedicine is a logical step in taking full responsibility for one's health care without working through the maze of the conventional system. And it can save you both time and money. Why not think out of the box for ways to support your own self-reliance?

To find out more about telemedicine and e-med services, click here.

Retire on your terms
The costs of medical care are just part of why it's so important to save and invest for retirement. As we see it, the best investing approach is to choose great companies and stick with them for the long term. In the Fool's free report "
3 Stocks That Will Help You Retire Rich," you'll find stocks that could help you build long-term wealth and retire well, along with some winning wealth-building strategies that every investor should be aware of. Click here now to keep reading.

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