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Telemedicine Glossary

If you find yourself confused by some of the terms you see when learning more about telemedicine, don’t feel bad. Telemedicine is at the intersection of healthcare and technology and that’s about the worst place to be when it comes to plain English. To help, we’ve compiled a list of some of the most common (and least understood) terms in the field.

API (Application Programming Interface)

An API is software that sets the rules for two applications to send data between them. APIs are used in medical practices to connect telemedicine technology to electronic health record systems, online scheduling applications, or practice management systems. This eliminates the need for duplicate data entry and reduces potential errors.


Audio-teleconferencing is simply a phone call between two or more parties. Visits using audio-teleconferencing without a video component are usually not covered by insurance.


Encryption is a method of encoding data in an email message or on a webpage that makes it so the information can only be retrieved and decoded by the person or computer system authorized to access it. Secure telemedicine software uses encryption to protect patient privacy related to video transmissions and other data.

HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act)

HIPAA is United States legislation, enacted in 1996, that provides data privacy and security provisions for safeguarding medical information. HIPAA is important to telemedicine because its Privacy Rule and Security Rule govern how providers and their business associates must protect the confidential health information of patients.

Real-time Communication

Real-time communication involves “the capture, processing, and presentation of data at the time the data is originated.” In other words, the participants interact exactly as if they were in the same room. A telephone call or live video conference involves real-time communication.

SaaS (Software as a Service)

SaaS is a method of delivering software in which the software resides on hardware controlled by the vendor. Users access it via a web browser or mobile application. This method of software delivery puts the onus of maintenance on the vendor, rather than the customer and reduces the time and cost it takes to get started. You may hear this referred to as cloud-based, or internet-based software.

Store-and-Forward or Asynchronous Communication

Store-and-Forward, also known as “Asynchronous Communication,” is a two-way communication with a time delay between when a message is sent, when it is received, and when a response is communicated. Email is a great example of store-and-forward. In telemedicine, secure email is used to send test results, or images for a specialist to review, for example.


Telehealth is a broad word that refers to clinical and non-clinical services provided at a distance. It includes provider training, administrative meetings, and continuing medical education as well as clinical services. According to the World Health Organization, telehealth serves, “Surveillance, health promotion and public health functions.”


Telemedicine is a subset of telehealth that is related only to the provision of clinical healthcare services and education remotely, through the use of telecommunications technology. Telemedicine technology is frequently used for primary care, the management of chronic conditions, medication management, specialty care, mental health services, and other clinical care that can be provided effectively using secure video and audio connections. Telemedicine and telehealth are often used interchangeably, but there is a distinction.


Telemonitoring is the use of audio, video, and other telecommunications and electronic information sharing technologies and devices to monitor the condition of a patient remotely. Telemonitoring can be used to track a patient’s heart rate, activity, or blood sugar levels, for instance.

We hope these definitions will help give you a better understanding around the subject of telemedicine.

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