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H H S Department of Health and Human Services
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Health Information Technology

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What is telehealth?

Telehealth is the use of technology to deliver health care, health information or health education at a distance. Common applications include: teleradiology, in which test results are forwarded to another facility for diagnosis; continuing professional education, including presentations by specialists to general practitioners; and home monitoring, a supplement to home visits from nursing professionals. The boundaries of telehealth, though, are limited only by the technology available - new applications are being invented and tested every day.

Telehealth can be divided into two general types of applications: real-time communication, and store-and-forward. Real-time communication may be a patient and a nurse practitioner consulting with a specialist via a live audio/video link, or a physician and a patient in an exam room communicating through an interpreter who is connected by phone or webcam.  Another example might be a cardiologist holding a teleconference with internists about new best practices in treating angina. Store-and-forward refers to the transmission of digital images, as in radiology or dermatology, for a diagnosis. All telehealth applications require health information technology (IT), but not every use of health IT can be called telehealth. Stand-alone systems like Electronic Health Records (EHRs) or Computerized Decision Support (CDS) are types of health IT that are not typically thought of as telehealth applications.

In general, telehealth can be thought of as a way of increasing the contact between a patient and the medical system. It can bring additional expertise to consult on a case, reach out to patients when they're at home or save travel time and expense for both practitioners and patients. Telehealth shows great potential for advancing preventative medicine and the treatment of chronic conditions.

Many regions are now served by Telehealth Resource Centers, which offer sample documents and descriptions of successful programs. 

Telehealth Resource Centers:

Additional Resources:

Developed by the Health Resources and Services Administration as a resource for health centers and other safety net and ambulatory care providers who are seeking to implement health IT.
Health Information Technology Toolboxes help health centers, safety net providers, and ambulatory care providers with electronic and online resources and technical assistance to improve patient care.  More>
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