Improving Access to Care: Telemedicine Across Medical Domains

Annu Rev Public Health. 2021 Apr 1:42:463-481. doi: 10.1146/annurev-publhealth-090519-093711.


Over the past 20 years, the use of telemedicine has increased exponentially. Its fundamental aim is to improve access to care. In this review, we assess the extent to which telemedicine has fulfilled this promise across medical domains. Additionally, we assess whether telemedicine has improved related health outcomes. Finally, we determine who has benefited from this novel form of health care delivery. A review of the literature indicates that (a) telemedicine has improved access to care for a wide range of clinical conditions ranging from stroke to pregnancy; (b) telemedicine in select circumstances has demonstrated improved health outcomes; and (c) telemedicine has addressed geographical, but less so social, barriers to care. For telemedicine to fulfill its promise, additional evidence needs to be gathered on health outcomes and cost savings, the digital divide needs to be bridged, and policy changes that support telemedicine reimbursement need to be enacted.

Keywords: digital divide; health services accessibility; outcome assessment; telemedicine.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Delivery of Health Care / organization & administration*
  • Health Services Accessibility / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Telemedicine*