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What is Telemedicine and What Telemedicine Services Delivery Mechanisms Currently Exist


What is Telemedicine?

Formerly defined as the exchange of medical data from one site to another through electronic means to help improve the health condition of patients, the definition of telemedicine now takes on the use of technologies and applications like video conferencing, email, smart phones and other similar tools.

Telemedicine started out about 4 decades ago when some hospitals outspread healthcare services to patients living in isolated regions. Since then, telemedicine has been adopted by an increasing number of healthcare providers. Today, it is going mainstream as hospitals and clinics are making it a core part of their ongoing operations.

It is important to understand that telemedicine is not a separate form of healthcare, but enhancement of healthcare services through the use of technologies. To integrate telemedicine into their services, healthcare service providers make huge investments in information technology and infrastructure development. Moreover, when it comes to the reimbursement of fees, authorities make no separation between on-site service provision and services provided via telemedicine at remote sites.

Even though telehealth is interchangeably used to refer to telemedicine, but sometimes it is defined as a broader remote healthcare service that does not necessarily involve clinical procedures. However, there is no difference in ATA’s definition for telehealth and telemedicine. There is another term called “health information technology,” which refers to the electronic recording of medical data while telemedicine refers to the provision of real clinical services via technology.

Telemedicine Delivery Mechanism

Telemedicine can be provided via a variety of mechanisms, including the following:

● Networked delivery mechanism: This mechanism connects tertiary healthcare providers with remote clinics and health centers in outlying regions. The mechanism makes use of high-speed connectivity lines or the Internet to create linkages between different sites. According to ATA, the number of telemedicine networks in the US stands at 200 while 3,000 sites have been linked under the networks.

● Point to point linkages: This mechanism uses private, high-speed point-to-point linkages to provide healthcare services directly to the patients or subcontract special services to autonomous healthcare providers. Subcontracted services comprise radiology services, stroke evaluation, cognitive health care and similar services.

● Monitoring center networks: This mechanism is used to provide healthcare services to patients in their homes. It extends healthcare services like cardiac, pulmonary and fetal examining to patients at their homes. Normally, landline or wireless Internet connectivity is employed for communication between the patients and the monitoring centers.

● Internet-based services: This mechanism is used to deliver direct healthcare services to patients over the World Wide Web.

To sum it up, telemedicine has revolutionized the healthcare sector. The advent of advanced technologies has supported telemedicine and the growth of telemedicine is expected to grow even at a higher speed in the years ahead.

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