Is ‘telemedicine’ just ‘healthcare’ yet?

In English, there is a well-recognised pattern in the development of some terminologies. Beginning with the ‘old’ technology, a new descriptive element is added when ‘new’ technology comes along. In time, the new terminology is shortened – often just going back to the original. Take, for example: carriage > horseless carriage > motor carriage > car. Or, a more recent one that is still in a state of flux: telephone > phone > mobile(cell)phone > smartphone > phone. Is this happening yet with terms like ‘telemedicine’, ‘telehealth’, mhealth, etc? Some people like to think so, as in this blog post Redefining telemedicine as a routine clinical practice. However, as much as enthusiasts of the technology like to anticipate such changes and, in doing so, to ‘help them along’ (it has its origins in magic, perhaps) the weight of linguistic history indicates that such changes only happen when there is a consensus in the general population that the once-new technology is now the norm. Heads-up thanks to Bob Pyke.

Categories: Terminology.

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