Essential Telemedicine Terms Clinicians Should Know

telemedicine terms

Applying for telemedicine jobs and want to stand out? Just getting started in the field? Here’s the essential telehealth terminology that will put you ahead of the curve.

This quick telehealth glossary covers the basic terminology telemedicine clinicians should know. Get to know these, and you should be able to follow along with most telehealth industry conversations or lectures no problem. Bookmark it, print it, and post it at your desk and you’ll be fluent in no time.

Asynchronous telemedicine: Asynchronous telemedicine, sometimes known as store and forward, refers to telemedicine that is delivered at a later time from when the patient or another healthcare provider requests it. This could be text-based interactions, a specialist reviewing labs or records at a later time, or a patient conducting an online assessment for medications like erectile dysfunction or birth control.

ATA: ATA stands for the American Telemedicine Association and is the prominent professional telemedicine organization in the United States. The ATA hosts an annual telehealth conference each year and provides educational resources on its website.

CCHP: CCHP stands for the Center for Connected Health Policy and is a non-profit that has been designated the national telehealth policy resource center. The organization researches telehealth policy issues and keeps updated information on state telehealth laws and reimbursement. The CCHP website also houses a vast resource center with research catalogs compiling peer-reviewed studies in several telemedicine domains.

CMS: Stands for the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services. CMS is the federal agency that administers HIPAA standards and develops Medicaid and Medicare reimbursement policies for telemedicine.

Collaborative agreement: A collaborative agreement is the relationship between a physician who serves in a supervisory role and a nurse practitioner who is delivering clinical services to a patient. Some states allow nurse practitioners to practice independently without physician oversight, while other states require physician oversight for NP practice, prescribing, or both.

Compact state: The Interstate Medical Licensure Compact States are a collection of states that facilitate expedited medical licensure across state borders for physicians. Getting licensed in one compact state helps secure additional licenses in other compact member states, so it’s a good way for telemedicine physicians to secure multi-state medical licenses for telehealth practice.

Distant site: A distant site is the location the telemedicine provider is in at the time of remote patient service. Sometimes this is referred to as the consulting site. The distant site is important in telemedicine law and policies where reimbursement may depend on the location of the physician (i.e. in a hospital or clinic vs. at home).

E-prescribing: E-prescribing or electronic prescribing is the method used to send prescriptions to pharmacies online rather than via paper prescription, telephone, or fax.

HD: HD stands for high definition and refers to video that is a higher resolution than standard. HD video requires faster internet connection speeds for proper image transmission. Some telemedicine companies use HD video for telemedicine consults, so it’s important to pay attention to your connection speeds when practicing on unfamiliar wifi networks.

HIPAA: HIPAA, or the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, is a healthcare compliance law providing data security and privacy for the safeguarding of patient medical information. In telemedicine, provider-patient communication must take place through HIPAA-compliant secure platforms.

Home health care: Home health care refers to healthcare that is delivered in the patient’s home. This could include home visits from healthcare professionals as well as technology used in the home to manage disability or illness.

Kiosk: Telemedicine kiosks are self-sufficient mobile healthcare sites where patients can access telemedicine care in locations such as pharmacies and grocery stores, and soon potentially in airports and college campuses.

mHealth: mHealth stands for mobile health and refers to healthcare apps and services delivered via mobile technology like smartphones and tablets.

Originating site: The originating site is the location the telemedicine patient is in at the time of remote patient service. This is also known as the patient site and is used for telemedicine laws and Medicaid reimbursement.

Picture-in-Picture: Picture-in-picture is a telemedicine video feature where a smaller window appears showing a live image of a video caller within a larger image of the opposite video caller. Picture-in-picture is handy for telemedicine providers to ensure they stay within the camera’s view and monitor what the patient is seeing during a consult.

Remote patient monitoring: Remote patient monitoring refers to technology and programs that help track patient health data at a distant site outside of the hospital or clinic and send that data to care providers in real-time. This technology could be in the form of connected healthcare devices like a smartwatch or heart monitor, health monitoring and wellness apps, or connected home devices. Remote monitoring patient data can include vital signs, weight, blood pressure, blood sugar, and other inputs like behavioral health data or symptoms.

Ryan Haight Act: The Ryan Haight Online Pharmacy Consumer Protection Act of 2008 is a DEA-enforced law regulating online prescriptions and prescriptions of controlled substances via telemedicine. The law went into effect in April of 2009 in response to the untimely death of 18-year old Ryan Haight, who died from an overdose of Vicodin procured from an online pharmacy without a prescription. The law is meant to thwart the proliferation of rogue and fraudulent online pharmacies and the illegal distribution of controlled substances. The act also contains rules about prescribing controlled substances via telemedicine.

Store and forward: Store and forward is a type of asynchronous telemedicine. It specifically refers to clinical patient data (X-rays, photos, medical assessments, documentation) that is acquired and stored in a secure database or the cloud and then forwarded to a specialist at a separate site for clinical evaluation.

Synchronous telemedicine: Synchronous telemedicine refers to telemedicine that is performed in real-time via video or phone consult. In practice, this looks like an urgent care provider assessing symptoms of a sore throat and fever, a psychiatrist managing a patient’s medication, or a primary care provider conducting a follow-up visit with a patient.

Telehealth: Telehealth refers to the broad industry of remote healthcare delivery, healthcare services, and healthcare technology. Telehealth can include clinical and non-clinical services including mHealth, home health care, remote patient monitoring, patient and provider health-related education, public health, and health administration.

Telemedicine: Telemedicine is a subset of telehealth referring to the specific delivery of clinical healthcare services through telecommunications platforms. Examples of telemedicine could be video consults, phone consults, or patient-provider communication through text messages or a patient portal.

Telehealth Resource Centers: The National Consortium of Telehealth Resource Centers is a federally funded program of 12 regional telehealth resource centers providing telemedicine program support and industry events.

VPN: A VPN, or virtual private network, is a secure and private way to connect to the internet over public wireless connections. VPNs are particularly important for those living the digital nomad lifestyle and connecting in foreign countries where networks may be more vulnerable to communication transmission interference.

Webside manner: Webside manner is the telehealth equivalent of bedside manner or the manner in which a telemedicine provider interacts with a patient via remote communication.