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Connecting Providers and Patients

Telehealth connects rural providers and their patients to services at a distant site. 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 Stroke 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.

Promoting Patient-Centered Health Care

Telecommunication technologies include:

  • Video conferencing

  • The internet

  • Store-and-forward imaging

  • Streaming media

  • Terrestrial and wireless communications

Telehealth differs from telemedicine because it encompasses a broader scope of remote health care services. Telemedicine refers specifically to remote clinical services. Telehealth, in addition to clinical services, includes remote non-clinical services, such as:

  • Clinician training

  • Administrative meetings

  • Continuing medical education

Although people often use telemedicine and telehealth interchangeably, telemedicine refers specifically to interactive health communications with clinicians on both “ends” of the exchange. For example, telemedicine allows you to:

  • Video conference Grand Rounds

  • Transmit X-rays between radiologists

  • Help a remote practitioner present a patient to a specialist for consultation

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