Like telework in general, telemedicine has a long, if obscure, history. The idea behind telemedicine is that information technology might be able effectively to facilitate the delivery of medical services without the collocation of patient and physician. Clearly, there are some apparent limits to the variety of such services. The doctor is in one location, the patient somewhere entirely else. I can easily imagine a tele-visit to the doctor’s office where, via color TV, the doctor has me stick out my tongue, takes a blood pressure reading, possibly with the aid of a local assistant, and prescribes some pills. That’s basically the state of the art in the mid 1970s. Let’s call that telemedicine 0.9.
The significant distinction between “ordinary” telework and telemedicine is the location independence issue. Many forms of information work are relatively insensitive to the locations of the participants. I can write a report anywhere and still get it delivered to its intended recipients anywhere else. But medical interactions? I used to joke that brain surgery was not a good candidate for telework; a certain intimacy between the surgeon’s hands and the patient’s skull seemed to be in order.
But, like almost everything else, the times they are a-changin’. Technology marches on and it alters the perspective for telemedicine. Let’s glance at telemedicine 2.0