Objectives: We aimed to provide an up-to-date contemporary bibliometric view of the telemedicine and telehealth literature and a longitudinal analysis of changes in content themes.
Methods: Software tools were used to extract and process MEDLINE entries. Frequencies of papers by year of publication and outlet were calculated, ranked, charted and tabulated. Frequency of publication by author was also calculated, ranked and tabulated. The process was repeated for two time periods to examine change: (i) 1970-1995 and (ii) 2009-2013. Content analysis of abstracts was conducted and tag clouds were generated. This visual representation was used to identify key words and prominent themes.
Results: 17,932 records relating to articles published in 2523 unique outlets were analyzed. In the cumulative literature, 3152 (18%) articles were published in specialist telemedicine journals while most articles (14,780 [82%]) were published in mainstream outlets. This pattern was observed in both epochs. Clinical journals were not highly represented. Over time 46,066 unique authors have contributed to the field, with 21,109 of them publishing in the period 2009-2013.
Discussion: Telemedicine is a large and growing field with most publication occurring outside of the specialist journals. Content analysis suggested a change of focus from the technical to the clinical between the two epochs. As a healthcare setting, the home also appears to be emergent.
Conclusion: This study updates the findings of previous studies. The emphasis within the literature suggests a move from technical issues to clinical applications and evaluation. The maturity of the field and its accessibility to clinicians and policy makers remains unclear.
Keywords: Bibliometric analysis; Content analysis; Telehealth; Telemedicine.
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