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The term Telemedicine is the delivery of medicine at a distance. The term is composed of the Greek word τελε (tele) meaning 'far', and medicine. Telemedicine may be as simple as two health professionals discussing a case over the telephone, or as complex as using satellite technology and video-conferencing equipment to conduct a real-time consultation between medical specialists in two different countries.
Care at a distance (also called in absentia care), is an old practice which was often conducted via post; there has been a long and successful history of in absentia health care, which - thanks to modern communication technology - has metamorphosised into what we know as modern telemedicine.
In its early manifestations, African villagers used smoke signals to warn people to stay away from the village in case of serious disease. In the early 1900s, people living in remote areas in Australia used two-way radios, powered by a dynamo driven by a set of bicycle pedals, to communicate with the Royal Flying Doctor Service of Australia.
The terms e-health and telehealth are at times wrongly interchanged with telemedicine. Like the terms "medicine" and "health care", telemedicine often refers only to the provision of clinical services while the term telehealth can refer to clinical and non-clinical services such as medical education, administration, and research. The term e-health is often, particularly in the U.K. and Europe, used as an umbrella term that includes telehealth, electronic medical records, and other components of health IT.
Types of Telemedicine
Telemedicine is practised on the basis of two concepts: real time (synchronous) and store-and-forward (asynchronous).
Real time telemedicine could be as simple as a telephone call or as complex as robotic surgery. It requires the presence of both parties at the same time and a communications link between them that allows a real-time interaction to take place. Video-conferencing equipment is one of the most common forms of technologies used in synchronous telemedicine. There are also peripheral devices which can be attached to computers or the video-conferenceing equipment which can aid in an interactive examination. For instance, an otoscope allows a physician to 'see' inside a patient's ear; a stethoscope allows the consulting physician to hear the patient's heartbeat. Medical specialties conducive to this kind of consultation include psychiatry, internal medicine, rehabilitation, cardiology, pediatrics, obstetrics and gynecology and neurology.
Store-and-forward telemedicine involves acquiring medical data (like medical images, bio-signals etc) and then transmitting this data to a doctor or medical specialist at a convenient time for assessment offline. It does not require the presence of both parties at the same time. Dermatology, radiology, and pathology are common specialties that are condusive to asynchronous telemedicine.
Telemedicine is most beneficial for populations living in isolated communities and remote regions and is currently being applied in virtually all medical domains. Specialties that use telemedicine often use a "tele-" prefix; for example, telemedicine as applied by radiologists is called Teleradiology. Similarly telemedicine as applied by cardiologists is termed as telecardiology, etc.
Telemedicine Coming of Age Online introduction and primer to telemedicine from the Telemedicine Information Exchange
- The Telemedicine Information Exchange (TIE)
- UK Telemedicine Information Service
- The Center for Telemedicine Law (CTL)
- Information on Telemedicine in India and Mauritius (SPSOOD)
- Telemedicine in India (AMRITA Group)
- Telemedicine in India (Apollo Group)
- Association of Telehealth Service Providers
- Norwegian Centre for Telemedicine
- SHL Telemedicine: provider of advanced personal telemedicine solutions
- American Telemedicine Association (ATA)
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