What is telemedicine? A collection of 104 peer-reviewed perspectives and theoretical underpinnings

Telemed J E Health. 2007 Oct;13(5):573-90. doi: 10.1089/tmj.2006.0073.


Nearly half a century ago, telemedicine was disregarded for being an unwieldy, unreliable, and unaffordable technology. Rapidly evolving telecommunications and information technologies have provided a solid foundation for telemedicine as a feasible, dependable, and useful technology. Practitioners from a variety of medical specialties have claimed success in their telemedicine pursuits. Gradually, this new modality of healthcare delivery is finding its way into the mainstream medicine. As a multidisciplinary, dynamic, and continually evolving tool in medicine, researchers and users have developed various definitions for telemedicine. The meaning of telemedicine encapsulated in these definitions varies with the context in which the term was applied. An analysis of these definitions can play an important role in improving understanding about telemedicine. In this paper we present an extensive literature review that produced 104 peer-reviewed definitions of telemedicine. These definitions have been analyzed to highlight the context in which the term has been defined. The paper also suggests a definition of modern telemedicine. The authors suggest that telemedicine is a branch of e-health that uses communications networks for delivery of healthcare services and medical education from one geographical location to another. It is deployed to overcome issues like uneven distribution and shortage of infrastructural and human resources. We expect that this study will enhance the level of understanding and meaning of telemedicine among stakeholders, new entrants, and researchers, eventually enabling a better quality of life.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Communication
  • Computer Communication Networks
  • Databases as Topic
  • Delivery of Health Care
  • Humans
  • Peer Review*
  • Telemedicine*