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What is telehealth & telemedicine?

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The American Telemedicine Association (ATA) defines telemedicine  as “The use of medical information exchanged from one site to another via electronic communications to improve a patient’s clinical health status.” xii 

Telehealth generally refers to a broad range of health-related services across various disciplines that are supported by telecommunications technology that includes: 

  • Telemedicine 
  • Health-related distance learning 
  • Remote patient monitoring
  • Call centers
  • Consumer-facing virtual and e-health applications

And other services that enhance health but do not necessarily signify the delivery of clinical care. 

Several definitions of telemedicine and telehealth are used by both federal and state agencies. HRSA, home to the federal Office for the Advancement of Telehealth (OAT), defines telehealth as: 

“the use of electronic information and telecommunications technologies to support long-distance clinical healthcare, patient and professional health-related education, public health, and health administration.”xiii 

State definitions vary such as that of California: 

“The mode of delivering health care services and public health via information and communication technologies to facilitate the diagnosis, consultation, treatment, education, care management, and self-management of a patient’s health care while the patient is at the originating site and the health care provider is at a distant site. Telehealth facilitates patient self-management and caregiver support for patients and includes synchronous interactions and asynchronous store and forward transfers.” xiv 

Virginia code specifically defines telemedicine as:

“The use of electronic technology or media, including live interactive audio or video, for the purpose of diagnosing or treating a patient or consulting with other healthcare providers regarding a patient’s diagnosis or treatment.” xv  

Telemedicine includes a variety of applications and services using: 

  • Two-way videoconferencing, either with or without the use of peripheral devices
  • Store-and-forward asynchronous technologies 
  • Mobile and wireless tools through which clinical care is provided 
  • Hybrids between these three options. 

There is a significant overlap in care delivery models provided through mobile (m-health) technologies using high-speed and lower-bandwidth telecommunications networks.