If you are having telehealth terminology turmoil

…consider the US Government. A survey of 100 respondents across 26 Federal agencies participating in the Federal Telemedicine (FedTel) Working Group presented multiple definitions of telehealth in use by agencies. Combining iHealthBeat’s summary with some extra commentary in Becker’s:

The Agency for Health Research and Quality defines telehealth based on evolving technology and adopted definitions for telehealth that fit the technology being used;

CMS and the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC) both define telehealth as the use of telecommunications and IT to provide access to diagnosis, health assessment, information and patient care;
The Health Resources and Services Administration defines telehealth as “the use of electronic information and telecommunications technologies to support long-distance” health care and lists some of the specific technology used to transmit data; and
The Indian Health Service uses specific health technologies in its definition, such as videoconferencing and remote patient monitoring. (Becker’s: the “telehealth toolkit encapsulates real-time videoconferencing, store-and-forward consultation, secure messaging, remote patient monitoring and mobile health services.”)

The report found that definitions also varied for health-related agencies outside of HHS. For example:
The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) uses the American Telemedicine Association’s (ATA) definition;
The Department of Agriculture uses definitions of specific technology such as electronic health data and telecommunications; and
The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) defines telemedicine as something that should be used “with the intent of providing the right care in the right place at the right time.”

One wonders if the FedTel members spend a good deal of governmental time defining their definitions and sorting through the variations. Which is why, for our readers in over 120 countries, your Editors try to stay away from the ‘inventive and idiosyncratic’ and mainly stick with the definitions you see in our right sidebar. Becker’s Hospital CIO. Full study published in Telemedicine and e-Health (May) courtesy of Becker’s.

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