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 and may involve the patient "seeing" the subspecialist during a live, remote consult. It may also 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 is often used to encompass a broader definition of remote healthcare 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 is working with the House Energy and Commerce Committee, as well as individual lawmakers who are developing proposals to enhance and expand the ability of family physicians to deliver telemedicine services to their patients. The AAFP is positioning itself as a thought leader in this area as well: earlier this year, the Robert Graham Center held a multi-stakeholder symposium, which brought together representatives of the physician, patient, academic, and business community to discuss ways to improve the legal and regulatory framework of telemedicine. 

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