Around the globe, the advent of large-scale technology implementation in health care has begun. The terms telemedicine and telehealth are spreading across the globe as fast as the satellite communications systems can transmit them. Telemedicine has reached around the world and has helped to link all peoples together in the struggle to understand and treat disease and promote health. Telemedicine is not just a single technology. It is part of a greater process, and it has spawned the creation of a chain of care unlike any in history (Roine, Ohinmaa & Hailey, 2001). New health information technologies are introducing the world to the value of knowledge in the promotion of health and prevention of disease (Coile, 2000). Telemedicine has experienced a steady growth over the past decade as telecommunication technology has advanced and as costs have declined (Wooten, 2001). Patient care, medical research, medical education, and the administration of health services are beginning to undergo revolutionary changes as information technologies advance (Wallace, 2001). .
This paper is a discussion of the global trends related to telemedicine, the numerous impacts of telemedicine on the practice of nursing, both now and in the future, and the response that the nursing profession may choose to take to this new technology. A discussion regarding the role of nursing theory and how it might evolve with telemedicine is also included.
Currently there is no universally accepted definition of telemedicine. Various authorities have developed definitions, and these in, in turn, have been adopted by researchers and authors throughout the literature. Telemedicine is broadly defined as the provision of health care services across some distance (Greenberg, 2000). More recently, telemedicine has been defined by the specific elements of service that are provided. Ashley (2002) defines telemedicine as "the practice of health care delivery, diagnosis, consultation, treatment, transfer of medical data, and education using interactive audio, video, or data communication.