Telehealth vs telemedicine. These two terms are often used interchangeably to refer to the use of digital technology to deliver healthcare. Understanding the intricacies of the two – how they differ and how they work together – is critical for explaining the technology and tools to patients and practitioners so they can best engage and utilize the services.
What is telehealth?
As defined by the Center for Connected Health Policy, the term telehealth refers to a broad variety of technologies and tactics to deliver virtual medical, health and education services. Interactive telecommunications technologies support electronic communications, like video conferencing, so patients and physicians can communicate in real-time even if they’re not in the same physical location.
As well as being used to deliver remote healthcare services, CCHP highlighted that telehealth services also encompass non-clinical solutions, such as being able to provide education over a distance. Telehealth is not a specific service, but rather facilitates a collection of means to enhance healthcare, public health and health education delivery while utilizing telecommunications technologies.
Overall, telehealth includes support for more than just virtual care for medical and public health, it also extends to additional services such as education. As the Mayo Clinic summarizes it, telehealth is where technology meets healthcare.
Where is telehealth used?
Telehealth can be used in a wide variety of settings to provide remote clinical services to patients. Organizations, providers, and healthcare facilities can all implement telehealth programs to benefit the health outcomes, but it’s especially useful for providing care in rural areas, reported Rural Health Information Hub.
With telehealth, a health professional can meet patients where they are most comfortable, whether that be at home, work or at a local community clinic. This reduces the challenges patients face in finding transportation to appointments. It can also improve the quality of care because advanced telehealth solutions, like virtual visits, can create a seamless experience for patients and providers to share health information and receive results.
What is telemedicine?
While telehealth encompasses a broad scope of services, telemedicine refers specifically to the traditional clinical diagnosis and monitoring that is delivered by technology. As CCHP explained, while the two terms have been used interchangeably, telehealth is gaining favor amongst healthcare professionals because it describes a wide range diagnosis, management and education across related fields of healthcare. Telemedicine, on the other hand, is a narrow scope of providing care from a distance with help from technology.
Like telehealth, telemedicine relies on teleommunications technology to deliver medical services and engage patients.
Where is telemedicine used?
Because telemedicine is a subset of telehealth, it can be used in many of the same applications. In addition to rural health, telemedicine can also be used in:
- Developing countries – give local clinics the ability to consult with global medical specialists in a way that is cost-effective.
- Correctional facilities – deliver quality care without the need for inmate transportation to an outside facility.
- School-based health centers – reduce the number of absences due to illness.
- Mobile health clinics – quickly dial-in a remote physician or specialist to consult.
- Shipping and transportation – cruise ships, cargo ships and commercial airplanes can help avoid the cost of a diversion from a medical emergency.
- Occupational health – keep employees healthy on-site.
- Disaster relief – deliver rapid access to advanced medical expertise.
Another successful application of telemedicine has been accomplished at skilled nursing facilities, like nursing homes. It can be difficult to provide quality health administration without enough resources or support, but by implementing TeleHealth Solution, nurses found they could treat more patients and reduce hospital readmission rates.
At this point, you may be wondering where telemedicine fits in the overarching services framework of telehealth. Ultimately, telemedicine is a subset of telehealth that refers to the actual practice of providing care. It’s a major component of telehealth, but it strictly refers to clinical services.
Understanding the difference between telehealth and telemedicine, as well as some of the most common challenges that they face during the implementation process, can help a practice transition seamlessly into utilization of the services.
In the grand scheme of telehealth vs telemedicine, it’s important to know that while they encompass different things, both work together to deliver care more conveniently and cost-effectively without sacrificing the quality that patients expect from primary care.
AMD Global Telemedicine offers a variety of telemedicine and telehealth solutions to help healthcare providers and organizations enhance their care and coordination and ultimately increase patient engagement and satisfaction.
For more information on how AMD can help your facility reap the benefits of telehealth and telemedicine, contact us today.