Telehealth (sometimes called
telemedicine) refers to a method of healthcare delivery that extends beyond face-to-face interaction.
Telehealth includes a variety of technologies, applications, and interfaces (including telephone, email, two-way
video, smart phones, wireless tools, and the like) to deliver virtual medical, health, and health
Telehealth services are becoming more commonly used in environments where patients are homebound or there are
other circumstances that make it difficult for patients to access care, such as long-term care situations and
incarceration. At this time, doctors are only able to practice telehealth in states where they are licensed. Reimbursement
is an ongoing concern for those practicing telehealth.
While being a member of a telehealth network is not a prerequisite to practicing telemedicine, there
are practical reasons for joining a network, such as connecting care providers (both general
clinicians and specialists) to a greater pool of patients who may not otherwise have access to care.
Networks provide broadband infrastructure (often for a discounted rate) and necessary protection to
assure healthcare delivery and medical records are shared in a secure and HIPAA-compliant platform.
Telehealth networks can be organized at the local level (Finger
Lakes Telehealth Network) or statewide level (California
Telehealth Network). They are often used to connect rural clinics and community health centers to
specialty care (Ohio State University Telemedicine Network) and
they can be used to provide education and training to care providers. In 2012, the American Telemedicine Association estimated the number of
existing telemedicine networks in the United States at 200, with 3,500 service sites across the U.S.
For more information about telehealth, see RHIhub’s Telehealth Use in Rural
Healthcare topic guide.
Resources to Learn More
Doctor: How Data Networks are Extending the Reach of Medical Care in the Digital Age
A brief history of technology in medicine and case studies of five existing telehealth networks.
Organization(s): Forbes Insights