The Health Resources Services Administration defines telehealth as the use of electronic information and telecommunications technologies to support long-distance clinical health care, patient and professional health-related education, public health and health administration. Technologies include videoconferencing, the internet, store-and-forward imaging, streaming media, and terrestrial and wireless communications.
Telehealth is different from telemedicine because it refers to a broader scope of remote healthcare services than telemedicine. While telemedicine refers specifically to remote clinical services, telehealth can refer to remote non-clinical services, such as provider training, administrative meetings, and continuing medical education, in addition to clinical services.
This capability enables patients to receive care in their communities and avoid long travel times. Given the shortage of some medical specialties in rural America, telehealth will play an important role in ensuring patients in rural communities can access the care they need. For example, imagine a rural primary care provider (PCP) needs to refer a patient to a Pelvic Health Specialist in an area where no such specialists practice. With telehealth, the PCP may be able to leverage telecommunications technologies to connect the patient with a specialist at a remote site instead of asking the patient to travel to another community to obtain care.