Telemedicine is defined by the American Telemedicine Association http://www.americantelemed.org as the “use of Medical information exchanged from one site to another via electronic communication to improve patient’s health status”. Telemedicine is care at a distance which is really not a new concept but the technology has evolved thus, the improvement and modernization of technology has stimulated renewed interest. See http://www.telemedicineprograms.com for types of technology. Telemedicine can be as simple as a telephone consult or videoconference, it can also be quite complex utilizing various “new” information technologies/devices.
Telemedicine is being utilized in many medical arenas such as, Cardiology, Radiology, Psychiatry, Pharmacy, Internal medicine, Pediatrics, Obstetrics, Gynecology, Neurology, Rehabilitation and most recently a rise in acceptance in Oncology; see article at http://www.oxfordjournals.org (JNCI) search “Teleoncology”. Telemedicine is a benefit to the poor, underserved communities, as well as in isolated/remote regions. In my opinion, this is the single most important reason for its use.
With benefits there are challenges. The primary challenge with Telemedicine are the legal concerns such as, licensure questions, accreditation questions, privacy questions, defining “going beyond consultation”, malpractice/liability, antitrust and a host of other legal issues; Search Healthcare Law and/or Telemedicine to gather additional legal concerns information. Telemedicine is the transfer of medical information and there are a host of legal issues to navigate through but in my opinion if you take the time to maneuver through the issues the benefits outweigh the risks; Lawyers and Physicians will play a pivotal role in working through the issues.