What is Telehealth

Telehealth (also referred to as telemedicine) is defined asExternal Web Site Policy, “the exchange of medical information from one site to another through electronic communication to improve a patient’s health.”

Visual depiction of telehealth classifications
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Telehealth Classifications
Visual depiction of telehealth classifications

Telehealth can be classified based on the interaction and/or the communication methods used. The interaction refers to who is involved (for example, a patient and a provider, or two providers). Communication is divided into synchronous and asynchronous. Synchronous communication is the delivery of health information in real-time (e.g., a phone call or videoconference). Asynchronous communication is the delivery of health information not occurring at the same time (e.g., email or text message exchanges).

Increased Use of Telehealth

Technological advances, coupled with changes in healthcare needs due to the COVID-19 pandemic, have led to a substantial increase in the use of telehealth. This uptick has been seen across care settings including primary care, oncology care, and other specialty care. While its use has been critical, a strong evidence base is needed to determine best practices and under what situations telehealth approaches can most effectively be used in cancer care. Thus, the National Cancer Institute is supporting research to identify and improve telehealth for cancer care delivery.

Telehealth for Cancer Care Research Priorities

Research is needed to identify and evaluate telehealth approaches in cancer care in the following areas:

  • Examination and improvement of telehealth integration in clinical workflow processes and outcomes
  • Development of telehealth care models for underserved communities
  • Considerations for special populations (e.g., children, cognitively impaired patients)
  • Assessment of how telehealth can affect (improve or worsen) health outcomes and equity in the delivery of cancer-related healthcare services
  • Evaluation of the impacts of policies affecting insurance coverage of and reimbursement for telehealth services
  • Development and evaluation of new telehealth tools, methods, and associated technology
  • Use of telehealth to complement or extend in-person procedures
  • Determining best practices for scaling and sustaining telehealth in cancer care

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Roxanne Jensen

Last Updated: 26 Sep, 2023