Telemedicine is the use of medical information that is exchanged from one site to another through electronic communications. It includes varying types of processes and services intended to enrich the delivery of medical care and improve the health status of patients.
Some of these processes and services include subspecialists' consultations, which may involve the patient "seeing" the subspecialist during a live, remote consult. It also may include the transmission of diagnostic images or video that the specialist reviews later.
Using electronic communications that collect and send information to foster remote patient monitoring, such as vital signs or blood glucose levels. Monitoring of this nature assists homebound patients or care-coordination between providers.
Closely associated with telemedicine is the term "telehealth," which can encompass a broader definition of remote health care that does not always involve clinical services. Videoconferencing, transmission of still images, e-health including patient portals, nurse call centers, and remotely tracking vitals are all considered part of telemedicine or telehealth.
The AAFP supports expanded use of telehealth and telemedicine as an appropriate and efficient means to enhance patient-physician collaborations, increase access to care, improve health outcomes by enabling timely care interventions, and decrease costs.
The Academy therefore advocates for the increased standardization of reimbursement policy among payers, and for the close monitoring of outcomes to ensure that broadened telehealth and telemedicine protocols don't lead to wider health disparities among vulnerable populations.
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