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Hosp Technol Ser. 1994;13(6):1-65.

Telemedicine on the move: health care heads down the information superhighway.

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  • 1American Society for Hospital Engineering, American Hospital Association.


Telemedicine has drawn increasing attention as one of the emerging new service delivery vehicles that will run on the information superhighway. In reality, remote diagnosis and consultation through the application of telecommunications technology have been practiced for many years. But advances in technology and reform imperatives to extend access beyond traditional boundaries are pushing telemedicine into new applications. This is evidenced by the explosion in the number of pilot projects begun within the last 12 months. While demonstrating telemedicine's growing capabilities--for education and administration, as well as medical practice--these projects also raise a number of legal, clinical, and technical questions that must be answered before government and other payers will routinely reimburse for remote services. Academic and industry consortia are springing up to deal with the most compelling issues, including documenting telemedicine's safety and efficacy, developing uniform data and transmission standards, and determining the minimum resolution needed to maintain the integrity of clinical transmissions. Almost every type of medical specialty has proved amenable to performing evaluations via telemedicine links; however, specialties with less direct patient contact, like radiology and pathology, are generally identified as better candidates for telemedicine interactions. The telemedicine equipment required for these consults ranges from the simple to the ultra-sophisticated, depending on the type of system used and its clinical application. The most common system configuration involves a base station in the main facility where specialists and other consultants are housed and a number of remote referral sites. Consults are performed by interactively sharing voice, video, or image data. Increasingly, systems are being introduced that use easy-to-learn, intuitive displays and controls. Systems also require the use of any number of different communication media including land-based wire networks, high-speed fiberoptics, microwave links, or satellite transponders. Quantum leaps in telemedicine performance are being made constantly, many being swept along as a result of intensified interest in developing similar consumer and business services that are destined for the new information highway. In addition to information infrastructure projects, telemedicine has also recently benefitted from the effects of defense reinvestment, political interest in cost-reducing technologies, increased availability of funding for pilot projects, and the emergence of multifacility, multitiered, integrated delivery systems. Technical, financial, and logistical factors, which had once worked against telemedicine feasibility, are suddenly shifting to rapidly propel telemedicine technologies out of investigational settings and into mainstream clinical practice.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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