The American Telemedicine Association (ATA) identifies telemedicine as a significant and growing component of healthcare treatment in the United States. The ability to virtually provide care to patients who might not otherwise receive it can enable early intervention, higher patient satisfaction and reduced overall costs. Nurses often play a key role in the success of this method of treatment by remotely collaborating with the physician either in the patient’s home or from a medical setting.

What Is Telemedicine?

There are multiple terms for this method of care, such as telemedicine, telehealth and telepsychology, which refer to the remote exchange of health data through internet, email, phone, video or other virtual methods. Telemedicine enables patients to receive quality, affordable healthcare remotely. This is often the equivalent of a face-to-face visit. Real time audio and video can decrease barriers such as distance, the shortage of available healthcare providers and access to a specialist. Telemedicine can overcome other obstacles to receiving care by:

  • Increasing available providers in rural settings.
  • Improving compliance with convenient and more frequent follow-up appointments.
  • Allowing providers to view the home setting to help determine treatment progression.
  • Reaching patients who may not have received care due to a state of being homebound, security risks (in the case of incarcerated patients), or childcare issues.

Benefits of Telemedicine

Telemedicine also offers additional beneficial uses, including staff and client education, virtual consultation, and video teleconferencing. Consultation can be between the patient and the provider or between two providers. Telemedicine applications can vary with settings and diagnoses.

This enhanced technology can provide the ability to diagnose diseases and prescribe medications. It also allows providers to review electrocardiograms (ECG) and radiologic images, or monitor blood glucose, blood pressure, and mental health status.

The Role of the Nurse

Nurses work in different roles in telemedicine. They might use telemedicine to interact virtually with the physician while caring for a patient in the community. This can permit information sharing from the patient’s home and result in earlier notification of pertinent issues.

Patient consultations can also be initiated through teleconferencing within an office or telehealth facility with the nurse’s assistance. The nurse monitors the equipment and the patient while checking vital signs and performing other tests. The information is then sent for physician review. This can enable early detection, early initiation of treatment and improved patient care.

Most patients are receptive to utilizing telemedicine for treatment, and the equipment required is usually easily accessible to the public. Society currently uses social media and other technology daily, therefore people are accustomed to — or expect — the same convenience in all areas of their life. Telemedicine sometimes includes challenges concerning reimbursement, regulations related to crossing state lines and potential staff resistance.

A key component for success is staff acceptance and support. Nurses who have received education through an online Registered Nurse to Bachelor of Science in Nursing (RN to BSN) program are already comfortable with using technology and may have a better understanding of combining clinical experience with technical knowledge. BSN-prepared nurses often have received additional education on leadership and communication, and they may frequently collaborate with other disciplines. These skills help them educate and work with their patients on the use of telemedicine.

Healthcare Is Evolving

As healthcare advances, nurses continue to expand in their roles. Nurses are known for being flexible and innovative, and those who have completed online education are already familiar with adapting to varied technology. Telemedicine can offer exciting opportunities and benefits for patients while enabling nurses to be on the forefront of providing cutting-edge, quality care.

Learn more about the Nevada State College online RN to BSN program.


Nursing Times: Caring from a Distance: The Role of Telehealth

JAMA Network: Utilization of Telemedicine Among Rural Medicare Beneficiaries

JAN: Examining the Use of Telehealth in Community Nursing: Identifying the Factors Affecting Frontline Staff Acceptance and Telehealth Adoption

American Telemedicine Association: About Telemedicine