Evolution of telemedicine from an applied communication perspective in the United States

Telemed J E Health. 2006 Oct;12(5):590-600. doi: 10.1089/tmj.2006.12.590.


Telemedicine, the use of telecommunication technologies to provide health services over some distance, has a history that spans more than five decades. Technological development and deployment have been interrelated with shifting paradigmatic views. This paper proposes that telemedicine has evolved through three generations that began with telemedicine as a communication medium to complement traditional services to a technology of automation and decision tools that expands the scope and range of health services and creates a unique health communication context. This paper provides a literature review and overviews three proposed evolutionary stages for telemedicine to date, namely synchronous versus asynchronous modalities, data transfer and storage, and automating decision making and robotics. Finally, we conclude with a discussion of the barriers for telemedicine and a call for engineers to join with social scientists and medical professionals to set an agenda for future telemedicine development.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Communication*
  • Telemedicine / trends*
  • United States