Telemedicine is a rapidly developing application of clinical medicine where medical information is transferred via telephone, the Internet or other networks for the purpose of consulting, and sometimes remote medical procedures or examinations.
Telemedicine may be as simple as two health professionals discussing a case over the telephone, or as complex as using satellite technology and video-conferencing equipment to conduct a real-time consultation between medical specialists in two different countries. Telemedicine generally refers to the use of communications and information technologies for the delivery of clinical care.

The terms e-health and telehealth are at times wrongly interchanged with telemedicine. Like the terms "medicine" and "health care", telemedicine often refers only to the provision of clinical services while the term telehealth can refer to clinical and non-clinical services such as medical education, administration, and research. The term e-health is often, particularly in the UK and Europe, used as an umbrella term that includes telehealth, electronic medical records, and other components of health IT.

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A brief history of telemedicine

Telemedicine is practiced on the basis of two concepts: real time (synchronous) and store-and-forward (asynchronous).

Real time telemedicine could be as simple as a telephone call or as complex as robotic surgery. It requires the presence of both parties at the same time and a communications link between them that allows a real-time interaction to take place. Video-conferencing equipment is one of the most common forms of technologies used in synchronous telemedicine. There are also peripheral devices which can be attached to computers or the video-conferencing equipment which can aid in an interactive examination. For instance, a tele-otoscope allows a remote physician to 'see' inside a patient's ear; a tele-stethoscope allows the consulting remote physician to hear the patient's heartbeat. Medical specialties conducive to this kind of consultation include psychiatry, internal medicine, rehabilitation, cardiology, pediatrics, obstetrics and gynecology and neurology.

Store-and-forward telemedicine involves acquiring medical data (like medical images, biosignals etc) and then transmitting this data to a doctor or medical specialist at a convenient time for assessment offline. It does not require the presence of both parties at the same time. Dermatology, radiology, and pathology are common specialties that are conducive to asynchronous telemedicine. A properly structured Medical Record preferably in electronic form should be a component of this transfer.

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This type of telemedicine has to do with x-rays. Teleradiology is the ability to send x-rays from one location to another for diagnostic purposes. Once the x-ray has been sent by one party and received by another, it can be viewed on the computer or printed out.

Video ConferencingThis type of Telemedicine is basically a conference/ consultation between a doctor/ specialist and a patient. It involves both parties communicating to each other live over long distances via web cams. This type of Telemedicine is helpful for both the patient and the doctor as the patient can digitally show the doctor what is wrong with them. The doctor can then base their decision what they see, instead of what they hear over the phone or read in emails.

Home CareThis type of Telemedicine is especially helpful for those who cannot leave the comfort of their home for medical or physical reasons. Home Care allows patients to communicate live to their doctor/ specialist via video or voice links on their home computer. Through the use of their home computer, the patient can also send their doctor their current medical situation such as their pulse, blood pressure, chest sounds, the content in their syringe, etc.

Telemedicine in Tanzania

Reaching rural area with telemedicine
Telemedicine: Advantages and Disadvantages
Telemedicine: Advantages