Summary of Telehealth Definitions: A Scoping Review

Research center:
Project funded:
September 2020
Anticipated completion date:
January 2022

A scoping review framework will be used in this study. The following initial search terms will be used in the Google search engine in order to determine how terms are defined: telehealth, telemedicine, telecommunication, virtual visit, and long-distance clinical care. Policy and regulation documents from both public and private entities will be obtained from published documents available on their websites. The study will exclude publications in sources (such as blogs, Twitter) that do not show an origin of telehealth definitions. For peer review publications, the study will use the initial search terms, which are specified previously to search PubMed and limit to those that were published in English, from authors who were affiliated with U.S. institutions, and within the past five years. The reason to limit the publication date to five years is because the review focuses on identifying current telehealth definitions, which have changed as telehealth technologies have improved significantly over time.

A PRISMA flow diagram will be created to depict the flow of information obtained through various phases of this scoping review. Reasons for excluding articles will be recorded. The study will use a standardized data extraction form containing: a) author/entity; b) year of publication; c) aims/purpose, if applicable; and d) key findings that relate to the scoping review questions to extract information from selected sources. As scoping reviews are useful to map evidence in a number of ways, the study will map telehealth definitions identified from the search in a number of ways, such as mapping the evidence in relation to time (when it was published), location (national or states), source (peer-reviewed articles or entities, such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Health and Human Services, Health Resources & Services Administration, legislatures, including state legislatures, and telehealth-related regulations), and/or origin (government, private, and professional organizations).

The study will create a concept map to explore how, by whom, and for what purpose the telehealth definition is used in a given document. Additionally, a policy map will be created to identify and map evidence such as policy documents and reports that guide practice and reimbursement policies in telehealth.

Lastly, content analysis will be employed to systematically categorize and extract telehealth definitions, identify the need to change definitions, and identify challenges of telehealth definition changes. The study team expects to synthesize the need to change telehealth definitions and the challenges when reviewing policy and regulation documents. Trends in telehealth definition changes over time will be observed and documented along with variations among stakeholders' telehealth definitions.

In addition to the scoping review previously described, the study team will conduct an environmental scan on telehealth definition in social media (e.g., Twitter and Reddit) and employ a natural language processing approach to analyze the contents.