Introduction To Telemedicine.

To begin my series of articles on telemedicine and how it can be applied or adapted for use in developing countries, I thought the first thing would be to know some terms and definitions used in telemedicine. 

What is telemedicine?

In a nutshell, telemedicine refers to the use of information communication technology (ICT) or telecommunication technologies to provide health care through electronic or digital means. The technologies employed in telemedicine allows patients to be taken care off in their homes or deliver health care to remote locations.

Telemedicine actually is not a new concept. It has been available in the form of telephones and fax machines. However, with advancement in ICT, telemedicine has also grown to include the Internet and related communication technologies.

Some Definitions or Buzz words In Telemedicine.

Telehealth: the American Telemedicine Association defines telehealth as the use of medical information exchanged from one person to another via electronic communications to improve patients’ health status. It can be simple as exchanging information over the telephone or complex as using satellite technology to broadcast a consultation to multiple locations using videoconferencing and digital medical imaging.

E-health: this is a new buzz word, very much like e-commerce, e-business or e-solutions and was initially used by businesses to refer to things done using Internet technology that are related to health. As such, there is still no formal definition for this word. However, an article in the Journal of Medical Internet Research gave a very broad and comprehensive definition to e-health. 

I would define e-health as the use of ICT and the Internet to provide health services or exchange health information by health care professionals in hospitals (public and private), academic institutions and by businesses. E-health not only refers to the actual services provided but also encompasses the way of thinking, an attitude involving networked global thinking to improve health care locally, regionally and worldwide using ICT.

The American Telemedicine Association has provided a list of common terminologies used in telemedicine which you can read here.

Tomorrow I will explore the various applications of telemedicine and provide some links to examples of where they are being used in developing countries.


About rodney itaki

Medical doctor and public health specialist from Papua New Guinea.
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