Download a PDF of Chapter 8 – Telemedicine (18 pages)
Telemedicine refers to any healthcare that involves communications technology and an element of distance. It includes patients and doctors communicating with each other electronically, and medical devices being operated remotely.
Although some types of care will always need to be delivered in person, telemedicine has the potential to offer care to people in their own home and increase equitable access to healthcare services.
Telemedicine could have a particularly positive impact in developing countries, for example, by enabling doctors to seek expert opinions from specialists in developed countries. Telemedicine may also have an impact on the ‘brain drain’ effect of doctors moving from developing countries to work in developed countries.
There has been little research on the impact of different types of telemedicine on doctor-patient relationships or on whether they bring cost savings.
Public healthcare systems should offer telemedicine services where they can feasibly and cost-effectively help to reduce inequities in access to healthcare. Any impacts on the doctor-patient relationship should be evaluated.
International agencies should encourage telemedicine networks in developing countries where they are shown to be beneficial, cost-effective and sustainable.
Developed countries should monitor any impacts of outsourcing their healthcare services to developing countries via telemedicine, for example on the ‘brain drain’ effect.