Background: Telemedicine appears to be ready for wider adoption. Although existing research evidence is useful, the adoption of routine telemedicine in healthcare systems has been slow.
Objective: We conducted a study to explore the current use of routine telemedicine in Norway, at national, regional, and local levels, to provide objective and up-to-date information and to estimate the potential for wider adoption of telemedicine.
Design: A top-down approach was used to collect official data on the national use of telemedicine from the Norwegian Patient Register. A bottom-up approach was used to collect complementary information on the routine use of telemedicine through a survey conducted at the five largest publicly funded hospitals.
Results: Results show that routine telemedicine has been adopted in all health regions in Norway and in 68% of hospitals. Despite being widely adopted, the current level of use of telemedicine is low compared to the number of face-to-face visits. Examples of routine telemedicine can be found in several clinical specialties. Most services connect different hospitals in secondary care, and they are mostly delivered as teleconsultations via videoconference.
Conclusions: Routine telemedicine in Norway has been widely adopted, probably for geographical reasons, as in other settings. However, the level of use of telemedicine in Norway is rather low, and it has significant potential for further development as an alternative to face-to-face outpatient visits. This study is a first attempt to map routine telemedicine at regional, institutional, and clinical levels, and it provides useful information to understand the adoption of telemedicine in routine healthcare and to measure change in future updates.