A Brief History of Telemedicine and the Role of COVID-19

By: Roshini Balasubramanian, Jacob Barber, and Kenzo Lacuarta

Source: “Video call with doctor” from Getty Images

With the increased uptake of digital health brought upon by COVID-19, this project examines access to telemedicine in the United States. We briefly look at the history of telemedicine and how previous barriers and obstacles have or have not been addressed. Like with all technological advancements, telemedicine can improve the quality of healthcare for some patients while leaving behind those who don’t have access. These breakthroughs can quickly become “magic bullets” if we are not careful in its implementation. We explore both the benefits and limits of telehealth through  Project Echo and the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in New Hampshire, one of the state’s biggest hospitals. It is important to note that although we focus on these developments in New Hampshire, the analysis can be applied to healthcare systems across the globe. Remote care can be seen as a form of “telehealth,” and data reflecting the use of such care during COVID-19 will allow providers to implement the technology in the most equitable way.  “Health at home” will continue post-pandemic and has great potential to improve health outcomes of rural patients, if implemented correctly.

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