Telemedicine was disregarded for being an unwieldy, unreliable, and unaffordable technology. Rapidly evolving telecommunications and information technologies have provided a solid foundation for telemedicine as a feasible, dependable, and useful technology. Practitioners from a variety of medical specialties have claimed success in their telemedicine pursuits. Gradually, this new modality of healthcare delivery is finding its way into the mainstream medicine. As a multidisciplinary, dynamic, and continually evolving tool in medicine, researchers and users have developed various definitions for telemedicine.
The meaning of telemedicine encapsulated in these definitions varies with the context in which the term was applied. An analysis of these definitions can play an important role in improving understanding about telemedicine. In this paper we present an extensive literature review that produced 104 peer-reviewed definitions of telemedicine. These definitions have been analyzed to highlight the context in which the term has been defined. The paper also suggests a definition of modern telemedicine. The authors suggest that telemedicine is a branch of e-health that uses communications networks for delivery of healthcare services and medical education from one geographical location to another. It is deployed to overcome issues like uneven distribution and shortage of infrastructural and human resources. We expect that this study will enhance the level of understanding and meaning of telemedicine among stakeholders, new entrants, and researchers, eventually enabling a better quality of life.
Telemedicine is not a separate medical specialty. Products and services related to telemedicine are often part of a larger investment by health care institutions in either information technology or the delivery of clinical care. Even in the reimbursement fee structure, there is usually no distinction made between services provided on site and those provided through telemedicine and often no separate coding required for billing of remote services. ATA has historically considered telemedicine and telehealth to be interchangeable terms, encompassing a wide definition of remote healthcare. Patient consultations via video conferencing, transmission of still images, e-health including patient portals, remote monitoring of vital signs, continuing medical education, consumer-focused wireless applications and nursing call centers, among other applications, are all considered part of telemedicine and telehealth.
While the term telehealth is sometimes used to refer to a broader definition of remote healthcare that does not always involve clinical services, ATA uses the terms in the same way one would refer to medicine or health in the common vernacular. Telemedicine is closely allied with the term health information technology (HIT). However, HIT more commonly refers to electronic medical records and related information systems while telemedicine refers to the actual delivery of remote clinical services using technology.
- Providing healthcare services via telemedicine offers many advantages. It can make specialty care more accessible to underserved rural and urban populations.
- Video consultations from a rural clinic to a specialist can alleviate prohibitive travel and associated costs for patients.
- Video conferencing also opens up new possibilities for continuing education or training for isolated or rural health practitioners, who may not be able to leave a rural practice to take part in professional meetings or educational opportunities.
- The use of telemedicine can also cut costs of medical care for those in rural areas.
So, telemedicine is one of the main ways of the future, would you join it now?