Telehealth is the use of technology to deliver health care, health information or health education at a distance. Common applications include: teleradiology, in which test results are forwarded to another facility for diagnosis; continuing professional education, including presentations by specialists to general practitioners; and home monitoring, a supplement to home visits from nursing professionals. The boundaries of telehealth, though, are limited only by the technology available – new applications are being invented and tested every day.
Telehealth can be divided into two general types of applications: real-time communication, and store-and-forward. Real-time communication may be a patient and a nurse practitioner consulting with a specialist via a live audio/video link, or a physician and a patient in an exam room communicating through an interpreter who is connected by phone or webcam.
Another example might be a cardiologist holding a teleconference with internists about new best practices in treating angina. Store-and-forward refers to the transmission of digital images, as in radiology or dermatology, for a diagnosis. All telehealth applications require health information technology (IT), but not every use of health IT can be called telehealth. Stand-alone systems like Electronic Health Records (EHRs) or Computerized Decision Support (CDS) are types of health IT that are not typically thought of as telehealth applications.
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