DEFINITION: Telemedicine is an alternative to face-to-face communication between patients and healthcare providers, using telephone or video. Telemedicine helps to ensure access to health care for people in rural and remote areas, and it also makes care more efficient and convenient for patients.
Telemedicine includes real-time contact between patients and their doctors, in-home electronic monitoring of patients with chronic conditions, and electronic access to specialists who can help a local hospital diagnose a patient or come up with treatment options. (For example, a small rural hospital can use telemedicine to connect with a larger, better equipped/staffed hospital in an urban area when analyzing a patient’s symptoms.)
The Affordable Care Act includes provisions to increase the use of telemedicine, but coverage and utilization still varies considerably from one state to another.