What is Telehealth?
Telehealth is a means of delivering medical information and health care through the use of telecommunication technologies. This may include providing clinical services to patients at a distance, monitoring a patient's vital signs from a remote health care facility, transmitting x-rays from a patient at a rural clinic to a radiologist in an urban hospital or broadcasting continuing medical education programs to physicians throughout the state.
Learn why one woman from Carrollton, Missouri, chose telehealth for her health care needs.
Telehealth does not create new or different health care services. It simply provides a new way to deliver existing services. On the clinical side, telehealth bridges the distance between patient and physician by allowing patients to remain in their communities while being seen by a health care provider at a distant site. This enables those living in rural communities or areas that are underserved to have access to health care who otherwise would not. Telehealth also saves time and money by reducing the amount of travel time and travel expenses as well as reducing the time patients are off work.
With the use of videoconferencing equipment, a patient can have a live, real-time interaction with a specialist, almost as if they are in the same room. The physician is able to obtain sufficient examinations of patients by questioning them about their past history and current symptoms, and by using electronic diagnostic equipment and other peripheral cameras. For example, in teledermatology a high resolution camera or a digital camera is used for the dermatologist to see a close-up view of the patient's skin condition.
Though live-interactive videoconferencing is one form of technology used, there are other forms used in telehealth such as remote monitoring equipment used in home health and intensive care programs. In both cases clinical data is collected from the patient and transmitted to a health care provider at an off-site location. The provider reviews the data and acts accordingly based on the findings. The clinical data may include patient's weight, blood pressure, heart rate, oxygen saturation, blood glucose as well as other measurements, such as laboratory data, depending on the patient's condition.
Store-and-forward imaging is another technology used in telehealth that allows x-rays, CT scans, MRI images, digital images and other images to be transmitted from the patient site to a physician located at a distant health care facility. In the case of teleradiology, images are sent to a radiologist to be read and the results are transmitted back to the patient site.
Telehealth also includes non-clinical services. For example, through the use of a Multiple Control Unit (MCU) many telehealth sites can be connected at one time for collaborative purposes, continuing medical education such as grand rounds, administrative meetings, training and so on. Again, the use of telehealth reduces travel time and expenses.
There are many ways to define "telehealth" and for that reason other websites have been provided below for further information on this subject.