Telemedicine refers to the use of various telecommunications by physicians and medical institutions that provide health care to their patients through electronic or digital means. Telemedicine employs technology that makes it possible for heath care providers to care for their patients in the patients' homes or in other remote areas. Telemedicine affords caregivers the ability to collect and transfer medical data, still images, and live audio and video transmissions. Some of the common methods used are ordinary telephone lines, the Internet, and satellites, although any means of transmission can be used.
Telemedicine is used in a variety of medical fields; for example, cardiology, radiology, psychiatry, and oncology. Diagnoses, treatments which include telesurgery, physician and patient education, and medical administration video conferencing between healthcare providers are all possible with telemedicine.
Telemedicine has a surprisingly long history that began with the advent of the telephone. In 1906, Einthoven first investigated the use of electrocardiogram (EKG) transmission over telephone lines. In the 1920s, ship radios were used to link physicians with sailors to assist during medical emergencies at sea. In 1955, the Nebraska Psychiatric Institute was one of the first facilities to use closed-circuit television for healthcare purposes. In the 1970s, paramedics in remote Alaskan and Canadian villages were able to perform lifesaving techniques while linked with hospitals in distant towns via satellite. Today, telemedicine is beginning to exponentially mature with progressive advances in technology.
The use of telemedicine is generally considered positive for both patients and the economy. Through remote heath monitoring, telemedicine may allow countless numbers of people to avoid nursing homes and hospitals, allowing them to remain productive, stay home longer, and consequently incur less health care costs. The economy also benefits from the diminished need to transport patients to other facilities when a health care specialist is needed.