The New Jersey Department of Corrections is now using sophisticated "telemedicine" video systems to examine inmates at prisons around the state.

The NJ Department of Corrections is using "telemedicine" to examine inmates. (Photo Credit: NA, ThinkStock)

"Inmates at various correctional facilities around the state will come before the camera and are able to be seen and heard by the consulting physician in our studio, which is in our Trenton central office," said Dr. Ralph Woodward, managing physician for the Department of Corrections.

He said this allows the doctors to see many more patients, and do so a lot more efficiently. In addition, Woodward said it saves money on transportation and security -- as much as several hundred thousand dollars a year.

"The inmate does not have to be transported offsite to a specialty clinic in a hospital or some other private office, so they stay within the facility," Woodward said.

This might sound unusual to some people, but Dr. Woodward said many correctional institutions around the country are using this system and it works quite well.

"There is very sophisticated equipment out there that will allow a physician to hear a heartbeat, look in a mouth and there are microscopic attachments that allow them to look at screens," he said.

The doctor also said the first visit with an inmate is always face to face.

"The telemedicine visits are follow-up visits where you might not need specialty equipment and you can conduct the interview over the telemedicine equipment," he said. "If there's a need to see the patient in person then that's set up as a follow-up visit."

He said when the telemedicine exams are conducted, "there's always someone with that inmate, in the form of a nurse, or even sometimes another physician who is maneuvering the patient."

The bottom line, Woodward said, is this is working quite well and saving money.

'We've done both physician and inmate surveys, satisfaction surveys on what they think of the whole process and overwhelmingly they love it," he said.

Video is also used by the Department of Corrections for court appearances of inmates, and sometimes inmate visitations, when families are too far away for in-person visits.