The International Organisation for Standardisation defines Telehealth as the ‘use of telecommunication techniques for the purpose of providing telemedicine, medical education, and health education over a distance’, while drawing a distinction between this and telemedicine, which is defined as the ‘use of advanced telecommunication technologies to exchange health information and provide health care services across geographic, time, social and cultural barriers’.
Telehealth services use information and communications technologies (ICTs) to deliver health services and transmit health information over both long and short distances. It is about transmitting voice, data, images and information rather than moving care recipients, health professionals or educators. It encompasses diagnosis, treatment, preventive (educational) and curative aspects of healthcare services and typically involves care recipient(s), care providers or educators in the provision of these services directed to the care recipient.
Video-conferencing is one of the main ways in which telehealth is improving access to healthcare services for patients who live in regional, rural and remote areas.
Instead of having to travel to the nearest major city to see a specialist, an increasing number of patients are using video-conferencing. This facility might be offered by their local GP or another local healthcare venue.
Medicare-funded telehealth services are also available to residents of eligible aged-care homes and to patients of Aboriginal Medical Services across Australia.