Textbook of Digital Health Cover

Textbook of Digital Health

Your companion for studying digital health and informatics

Telemedicine

From Chapter 2 of the "Textbook of Digital Health" by Dr Chris Paton:

Many patients and providers are now familiar with telemedicine systems. The healthcare facility lockdowns implemented in response to the coronavirus pandemic meant that routine appointments in doctor’s clinics around the world rapidly transitioned to telemedicine consultations. Patients can use smartphone, tablet PC and web applications to video-conference with their doctors instead of attending in person. Many doctors and hospitals have adopted general-purpose video-conferencing systems such as Zoom or Microsoft Teams, but there are also a wide range of commercial systems that integrate PAS/PMS systems with videoconferencing to manage appointment book, note-taking and access to clinical data. Before the current crisis, however, telemedicine was largely used in specialist use cases such as supporting very remote communities in places such as Alaska, Norway and the Australian Outback.

The first recorded use of telemedicine goes back to the clinic of Willem Einthoven in the early years of the 20th Century. As the inventor of the original electrocardiogram (ECG), the method of measuring the health of the heart by monitoring its electrical activity, Einthoven required a means of transmitting the ECG from the hospital to his research centre. His use of telephone wires for this purpose is perhaps the first use of telemedicine. The first use of television to provide healthcare services is reported to be by Massachusetts General Hospital who, in 1958 provided medical care to over 1000 patients at the Logan International Airport Medical Station. Although the use of television for providing service waned over the years, doctors regularly used telephones to communicate with patients and it ceased being differentiated from normal medical practice. Only in the 1990s when a new communication technology, the personal computer, began widespread adoption did the term telemedicine start to be used again. Providing routine consultations via personal computers and the internet has been limited by reimbursement policies and a lack of access to technology but teleradiology, telepathology and teledermatology, whereby images are transferred via the internet for interpretation by clinicians in a remote location have steadily grown in use to the present day. With the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, the use of telemedicine has dramatically increased. In addition to imaging-focused specialties such as radiology and pathology, family doctors and clinicians of all specialities are now routinely using videoconferencing to remotely examine patients and provide video-based consultations where face-to-face sessions are not possible.

Paton, C (2024). Textbook of Digital Health.