1. Definition of Telemedicine
Telemedicine is a subset of telehealth, and it refers to the use of communication networks to deliver healthcare services at a distance. The communication and networking technologies also vary, such as satellite communications, the internet, Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM). The COVID-19 pandemics led to such a need for socially distanced health care that telemedicine visits increased 683% at the height of the pandemic. It seems that telemedicine will permeate pervasively into healthcare delivery over time (CHIRON, n.d.).
World Health Organization (WHO) defines telemedicine as “the delivery of health care services, where distance is a critical factor, by all health care professionals using information and communication technologies for the exchange of valid information for the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of disease and injuries, research and evaluation, and for the continuing education of health care providers, all in the interests of advancing the health of individuals and their communities”. What we recognize as telemedicine today started in the 1950’s when a few hospital systems and university medical centers started to try to find ways to share information and images via telephone. In one of the first successes, two health centers in Pennsylvania were able to transmit radiologic images over the phone (WHO, n.d.).
When it comes to patients, the main benefits of telemedicine are less time away from work, no travel expenses, less interference with a child or eldercare responsibilities, privacy, and no exposure to other potentially contagious patients. On the other hand, in the case of providers, their benefits are an increase in revenue, improvement in office efficiency, better patients follow through and improved health outcomes, fewer missed appointments and cancellations, and private payer reimbursement.
There are few limitations to how telemedicine can be applied. Some examples of how it is being used today are follow-up visits, remote chronic disease management, remote post-hospitalization care, preventive care support, school-based telehealth, and assisted living center support (WHO, n.d.).
According to an economic forecast organization, the size of the telemedicine market was around $45 billion in 2019, and it is projected to reach $175 billion by 2026. The reasons for this growth are the increasing healthcare cost, geriatric population, government funding and grants for telemedicine, medical tourism, the prevalence of chronic and lifestyle-associated diseases, the medical requirement in remote areas, and the need for remote patient monitoring services in developing countries. In the European Union, five projects related to telemedicine are carried out. The scope of these projects is teleradiology, teledermatology, teleneurology, telemonitoring for diabetes and chronic heart failure, but there is no topic on education(Isights, n.d.).