The failures that you have described, I have seen in several places. Telehealth equipment purchased with some sort of rural healthcare grant and dumped on a clinic by technical staff, and left to gather dust because it was not implemented properly. In my experience, it's really easy to get this wrong. As you know, tech people are neither providers nor managed care operators.
You are correct that when I use the term "telemedicine", I tend to use it in the broadest possible way. You alluded to this in your comment - and I'll reiterate that just using the novel terminology (e.g. da Vinci machine and telemed robots) does not do justice to the work that has gone into getting telemedicine where it is now. Telecommunications technology has been used for healthcare since it's inception, and in these broad terms, it certainly counts as telemedicine (early telephone and telegraph use, not to mention NASA's work on remote monitoring for astronauts). We take the low-hanging-fruit solutions where we can, but there is so much regulatory and bureaucratic friction ensuring that telemedicine adoption happens very slowly. (Cross-state physician and nursing licensing is always a problem, CMS regulations prevent billing in many cases, state boards of medical examiners are passing protectionist measures to make it difficult to perform telemedicine - especially across state lines, etc). In building a system, I start small, and take the small victories on the low-hanging-fruit. More often than not, it's the healthcare providers who need to buy into the technology and they are the ones who come up with ideas for how to use the technology. It's very often that I hear something like "I've got a regular ENT clinic, and don't need that scope, but could I use this for after-hours coverage when I only have an RN on duty? I'd bet that with video supervision, we could really reduce the number of ER transports, which is exactly what our client is asking for."
With respect to cardiology, in many cases, a cardiac echo machine and tech are easier (and cheaper) to transport than a cardiologist. It really depends on the circumstance. If it's easy to refer a patient to a clinic with the appropriate equipment down the street, then it makes sense. In a large hospital that already has echo cardio equipment onsite, then it's a no-brainer. In a massive self-contained environment (e.g. native American reservation, prison system, VA network, or university system), this isn't always possible - and this is where we can bring the equipment and tech to the patient. These are the environments where we have seen the greatest successes.
You are also correct in that nobody is going to just "connect" two EHR's overnight. Most of the federal law revolving around these was not really for portability in the charts, but in billing codes. Even that is very complicated and cumbersome. However, getting a partner provider (or a remote employee) access to an EMR is very easy to do.
Yeah, we're closer than it would appear in our opinions on this. It would appear that you've been on the wrong end of more than one bad telemedicine implementation. Throwing technology at a non-problem does nothing for anyone. Pie-in-the-sky promises and deploying poorly implemented systems and walking away moves us backwards on all levels. I've spent the better part of the last decade blowing the dust off of these implementation and making them work. What I do is not bleeding edge robots, but finding small victories wherever possible and then working with stakeholders to identify other opportunities to grow their program (or overcome obstacles that have prevented them from using the technology in the first places). I'm sure that we both totally agree that telemedicine is not a fix-all that will replace in-person care. I've never made this promise to anyone, and never will. However, I've been increasingly surprised by what we've been able to accomplish even with older equipment.