Telemedicine

Bryan Bergeron, MD

Disclosures
In This Article

Introduction

On the heels of World War II, television was the new wonder technology. It wasn't long before proponents of the new marvel were touting it as the perfect vehicle for examining patients at a distance -- telemedicine. Apparently, many parts of rural America were in dire need of more specially trained physicians. However, like the first blush of most technologies, the initial hype projecting physicians examining patients through remote electronics was overly optimistic. Not only was it impractical given the state of the technology, but also the social, political, economic, and legal infrastructures weren't in place. Today, the technology is more advanced and affordable, but many challenges related to infrastructures remain. This article provides a practical review of the status of telemedicine -- the ultimate application of pervasive clinical computing.

For the purpose of this article, telemedicine is defined as practicing medicine remotely, primarily by exchanging images, sometimes accompanied by text and audio, over a communications network. There are more comprehensive or elegant definitions offered by the Telemedicine Information Exchange, the Telecommunications Development Bureau, the Telemedicine Interoperability Alliance, the American Telemedicine Association, and similar groups, but most definitions incorporate communications technology. Furthermore, most applications that fall under the "tele" rubric are image-intensive. Tele-Radiology, Tele-Pathology, and Tele-Dermatology are the most common application areas in telemedicine.

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