Objectives: As an initiative of the International Network of Agencies for Health Technology Assessment, an approach to assessment of telemedicine applications was prepared to assist decision makers who are considering introduction and use of this technology.
Methods: Review and commentary drawing on published assessment frameworks and reports of primary evaluations of telemedicine, with particular reference to experience in Finland and Canada.
Results: Elements of the approach included development of a business case (considering population and services, personnel and consumers, delivery arrangements, specifications and costs); subsequent evaluation of the telemedicine application; and follow-up (covering the domains of technical assessment, effectiveness, user assessment of the technology, costs of telemedicine, trials, economic evaluation methods, and sensitivity analysis).
Conclusions: Decision makers should link introduction of new and often costly technology to appraisal of its feasibility, followed by evaluation of the application, including longer term consideration of its sustainability and impact on the healthcare system. As the effectiveness and efficiency of telemedicine applications will often be strongly influenced by local issues, results of assessments may not be generalizable.