The advanced technologies and communication systems that have facilitated the expansion of Telemedicine technology may make you think that it is a new invention, but the truth is quite the opposite. In fact, you might be surprised to learn that Telemedicine has been around for centuries. 

As on-demand healthcare is a necessity today, so it always has been. The premise of Telemedicine is based on being able to communicate medical data over long-distances, and such practices have been used throughout history.  

History of Telemedicine – Timeline Through The Ages

Ancient Telemedicine

At the very beginning, Telemedicine could be seen in its infant stages in Greece and Rome around 500 BC. During this time communication between towns was conducted by human messengers, who would transfer any medical advice or medicines necessary. Mediums like smoke signals and light reflections were used to communicate medical information. These were used especially over long distances to indicate health events like births, deaths and disease outbreaks.

Early Telemedicine 

The invention of telegraphs and telephones advanced Telemedicine towards what it is today. They made long-distance communication easier, increased the speed of delivery and were being used by the common public in a large scale. Due to this, it was used by the military during the Civil War for ordering medical supplies as well as communicating deaths or injuries on the battlefield. 

The world became more connected with the widespread use of telephones. Physicians could give their patient’s medical advice over the phone as well as confer with other physicians to exchange information. With the advanced communication methods used today telephones may not seem significant, but they played an essential part in the evolution of Telemedicine.  

Telemedicine As We Know Today

The idea for modern Telemedicine that we use today appeared around the 1960s, during which time the transmission of video, images and other medical data occurred. In 1959, the clinicians at the University of Nebraska became the first people to use video communication for medical purposes. They used interactive telemedicine to transmit neurological examinations and other such programs soon followed. 

A major break in the development of Telemedicine came with a successful government project between the Indian Health Services and NASA. The project was called Space Technology Applied to Rural Papago Advanced Health Care (STARPAHC). It provided Telemedicine services to the Native Americans of  Papago Reservation in Arizona using the same technology astronauts use on space missions.

The STARPHAC project sparked the interest of several in the Telemedicine field over the following decades. Many universities, medical centers, and research companies came forward with more creative and ambitious projects leading to the quick growth of Telemedicine technology. 

The onset of the Internet had a great impact on healthcare technologies and Telemedicine. It became so much easier to build healthcare applications for exchanging and storing medical data, video calling over long distances. Even patients used Telemedicine apps to see their lab results, renew prescriptions, or send communicate with their physician.

Telemedicine Now and Then

Earlier the equipment used in Telemedicine was bulky and required specially trained personnel to use. Though the devices we use today do resemble the earlier Telemedicine equipment they are considerably smaller in size and greater in the scope of features. Mobile devices like fitness bands and heart rate monitors are great examples of how patient’s vital data can be tracked for Telemedicine.

Soon devices like smart glasses and smartwatches will also be used commonly enough to relieve the doctors of the extra paperwork. Modern Telemedicine is still developing and getting better in order to provide patients with the best access to healthcare services from afar.