TeleMedicine is defined as “Rapid access to shared and remote medical expertise by means of Televideo, Telephone, Internet, or any Telecommunications technology and Health Information technologies, no matter where the patient or relevant information is located.”Telemedicine can be used for Health information collection, testing, disgnosis and treatment of patients.There are many successful examples of surgery being conducted by remote surgeons.
The practice of telemedicine has evolved to include several disciplines.The higher amount of usage of telemedicine is in the specialty of Psychiatry, Dermatology and Radiology.There are examples of usage in Pathology, Stroke patient care, Pharmacy, Speech Therapy, Eye Care, and Home Health care.There are several universites and companies actively pursuing variety of applications and products in the field of telemedicine.
Telemedicine is still in its infancy.The adoption of the technology is slow specially in the countries with low telecommunications bandwidth.The United States has a limited number of facilities which use telemedicine compared to the size of healthcare industry.The insurance companies, medicare and medicaid have recently authorized the use of telemedicine for reimbursements.However most physicians and health care service providers are not educated about the benefits of telemedicine.There is a shortage of expertise in installing secure and private health information systems to deliver medical care via telecommunications.There is a fear of patient data being available on the internet.There are several groups including department of health and human services of US government trying to solve the issues of Privacy & Security, Electronic Health Records, Interoperability, Health Information Exchange, Quality and Meaningful use of electronic health information.All of the efforts are at an early stage.The adoption of recommendations from these entities as well as vendors is not likely for several years.
The cost benefit of telemedicine has not been document extensively in urban areas.However rural remote areas are benefitting from medical care delivery via telemedicine. Good examples are delivery of health care in West Texas, and Alaska. Both of these examples involve long distances and lack of medical care providers in remote towns and villages.