Studies of any design that assessed telehealth applications of any sort undertaken in at least one Asian country were eligible for inclusion. Outcomes included patient outcomes (such as increased access to health care services or improved quality of care) as well as administrative changes or economic effects.
Just over one third of the included studies were undertaken in Japan; two-thirds were conducted in urban settings. Just under half of the studies were hospital-based. All studies conducted in a home-based setting were undertaken in the more developed countries of the region (Japan, Taiwan and South Korea). Studies were conducted in a wide variety of disciplines that included radiology for orthopaedic and neurology problems, ophthalmology, pathology, emergency medicine and cardiology; nearly one quarter of studies included two or more disciplines. Just under half of the telehealth applications utilised store and forward telemedicine; slightly fewer used videoconferencing or combined store and forward technologies and videoconferencing. A third of studies used ISDN lines for telecommunication.
Two reviewers independently selected studies for inclusion in the review. Disagreements were resolved through consensus.