When Did Health Technology Bring Us Telehealth?

Telehealth has been around long before the COVID-19 pandemic. What may have appeared to be a sudden surge has been a slow burn over the last century. But how did mobile health technology begin?

The Radio

In the early 1900s, radio revolutionized communication. With the radio’s quick adoption in multiple fields, doctors began theorizing how to communicate with patients using this technology. According to the NIH, in 1924, an imaginative cover for the magazine Radio News foreshadowed telemedicine with a “radio doctor” who could see and be seen by the patient. 

Old newspaper clipping of the first mobile health tech adoption, doctor and patient communicating through a radio

From: 2, Evolution and Current Applications of Telemedicine

Putting Health Tech to Work

The world’s first example of an electronic medical record transfer occurred in the 1940s. According to, radiology images were sent 24 miles between two townships via telephone line in Pennsylvania. A Canadian doctor soon toyed with this technology, and by 1950, he created a teleradiology system. As these technologies came alive, so did motion pictures, which led to severe plans for video medicine. The first medical adoption of this technology was by clinicians at the University of Nebraska in 1959. The university established a two-way television setup to transmit information to medical students across campus. Five years later, they connected their health technology with a state hospital for video consults. As the years passed, government agencies such as the Public Health Department, NASA, the Department of Defense, and the U.S. Health and Human Services Department has all invested time and money into research for telehealth.

Telehealth Today

Telehealth exists all around us and continues to improve. From the early wearables such as fitness wristbands and heart rate monitors to modern technologies like smartwatches and smart glasses, these mobile health solutions have helped healthcare professionals better understand how their patients feel and manage their diseases. There is still a plethora of unexplored territory for the health tech industry, so what does the future hold for telemedicine? The possibilities of innovation are endless.

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