In support of efforts to address the growth of telehealth to provide healthcare, the AHRQ Evidence-based Practice Center (EPC) Program has commissioned evidence reports to inform next steps by clinicians, patients, policymakers, and Federal agencies.
Telehealth is the use of electronic information and telecommunication technology to provide healthcare across time and/or distance. Application of telehealth had been steadily increasing in many areas of healthcare even before the emergence of COVID-19 in 2020. The pandemic created an environment that requires balancing the need to provide access to quality care while minimizing potential exposure. Growth in the use of telehealth has been exponential, spurred by this need and supported by temporary changes in payment and regulation.
Telehealth encompasses four modalities: live or synchronous interactions, asynchronous “store-and forward” transmission of data captured at the site of care, remote patient monitoring, and mobile health (mHealth). Synchronous telehealth involves healthcare delivery for a specific patient involving a clinician, such as real-time clinical video visits. Store-and-forward is the transmission of diagnostic data from the site of care to a specialist at another site. Remote patient monitoring helps clinicians manage chronic disease by allowing personal health and medical data to be transmitted from one location to another.
Virtual health technologies are also considered telehealth services, and may include mobile health applications (apps) or devices that collect patient-generated health data and interventions provided over the internet, such as screening questionnaires and education, some, but not all, of these are bidirectional (that is, linked for interaction between a provider and patient). Telehealth can encompass broader applications of technologies to healthcare functions between providers (i.e., provider-to-provider telehealth) such as consultation, distance education, or mentoring.
The EPC Program evidence reports on telehealth are listed below:
- Telehealth for Women (in progress)
- Schedule of Visits and Use of Telemedicine for Routine Antenatal Care (in progress)
- Improving Rural Health Through Telehealth-Guided Provider-to-Provider Communication (in progress)
- Telehealth During COVID-19 (in progress)
- Evaluation of Mental Health Applications (in progress)
- Integrated and Comprehensive Pain Management Programs (2021)
- Automated-Entry Patient-Generated Health Data for Chronic Conditions: The Evidence on Health Outcomes (2021)
- The Evidence Base for Telehealth: Reassurance in the Face of Rapid Expansion During the COVID-19 Pandemic (2020)
- Strategies for Patient, Family and Caregiver Engagement (2020)
- Telehealth for Acute and Chronic Care Consultations (2019)
- Mobile Applications for Self-Management of Diabetes (2018)
- Telehealth: Mapping the Evidence for Patient Outcomes From Systematic Reviews (2016)