The problem with assessments like Langreth’s is that he’s comparing apples to oranges. Cutting-edge forms of telemonitoring collect real vital signs in real time, then automatically transmit that data to an electronic medical record or alert a caregiver in case something is abnormal. All the patient has to do is wear or step on the device and make sure everything is turned on. There’s no transcribing of readings and no manual calls to be made.

That’s the promise of telehealth, telemedicine, telemonitoring or whatever “tele-” phrase you prefer. Here’s a good, commonsense idea for reporters: Think about the technology you see pretty much everywhere but the hospital or doctor’s office—on smartphones, in video game consoles and even at the self-service check-out at the grocery store that knows if you’ve bagged the item you just scanned. And start asking the health-care organizations you cover why they still rely on old-fashioned telephones and fax machines.

Neil Versel is a Chicago-based freelance journalist and blogger specializing in health information technology.