TELEHEALTH VS TELEMEDICINE: ARE THEY SAME OR DIFFERENT?
With people wanting more accessible health services and more information about everything related to health, we see them talking about telehealth and telemedicine abundantly and interchangeably.
Both words address remote healthcare-related services or facilities while using technology.
While many understand what the other person is trying to say, it’s often confusing, too. Telehealth and telemedicine are used in each other’s place because their meanings are related, but in reality, they are a lot different. And it’s very important to know when to use which one.
If you want to know the proper meaning of telehealth and telemedicine, their similarities and differences and when to use which one, this reading is for you!
So, let’s begin.
The Definitions Of Telehealth And Telemedicine
The leading health organisations describe telehealth and telemedicine differently. The World Health Organization (WHO) defines telehealth as the “use of information and communication technologies (ICT) for health”. In contrast, the Federation of State Medical Boards defines telemedicine as “the practice of medicine using electronic communication, information technology, or other means between a physician in one location, and a patient in another location, with or without an intervening health care provider.”
It’s necessary to understand these terms in detail. So, let’s begin our journey with the definitions of telehealth to know what each term stands for.
What Is Telehealth?
Telehealth is a part of E-health. It is a broad perspective term for delivering remote healthcare services using telecommunication, electronic information, and/or digital technology. It ensures comprehensive care, support, and communication between patients and providers ahead of virtual consultations.
Telehealth services cover disseminating healthcare information for healthcare management, healthcare professionals (HCPs), training and education of healthcare workers (HCWs) and other medical services using virtual mediums.
What Is Telemedicine?
Telemedicine is a vital part of telehealth, specifically regarding remote clinical services and the provision of healthcare services from a distance. It enables two-way communication between patients and healthcare providers, using electronic and telecommunication technologies.
Telemedicine services offer consultations and diagnostic and treatment facilities, increasing the accessibility of healthcare services without physical interaction.
The Examples Of Telehealth And Telemedicine
The best way to understand telehealth and telemedicine is through their activities. Let’s look at some examples of both.
Examples Of Telehealth
- Patients getting healthcare services through an online portal such as laboratory test reports, book appointments, order prescription drugs, and receive consultations,
- Remote monitoring of vitals such as blood sugar levels, blood pressure, and temperature with the help of telehealth technology.
- Live video calling to facilitate remote consultations.
- Pre-admission patient screening and aftercare facilities.
- Online reminder for medication refills, medical checkups, and vaccinations.
Examples Of Telemedicine
- Sharing medical reports with physicians through the Internet.
- Consulting providers through video calls.
The Services Included In Telehealth And Telemedicine
Remote healthcare services are vast and categorised accordingly. Let’s see the scope of telehealth and telemedicine services for patients and providers.
Services Included In Telehealth
Telehealth includes a wide range of services, including:
- Global networking for digital information exchange.
- Storing medical records in one place.
- Prescription management.
- Videoconferencing and remote monitoring.
- Virtual checkups using telehealth platforms.
- Healthcare education and training.
- Patient tracking and communication services.
Services Included In Telemedicine
Telemedicine has limited services, which include:
- Remote clinical services.
- Live telemedicine.
- Virtual consultations.
The Technologies Used In Telehealth And Telemedicine
Now that we understand that telehealth and telemedicine are two different entities let’s see what technologies are used to deliver telehealth and telemedicine services.
Technologies Used In Telehealth
- Electronic communication tools such as video conferences and smartphone applications.
- Internet of Medical Things (IoMT).
- Blockchain technology is used for handling medical records and transactions.
- Big data for handling healthcare information.
- AI and machine learning for improving healthcare services.
- Cloud technology for storing data.
Technologies Used In Telemedicine
- Mobile health applications.
- Electronic communication tools.
Telehealth and telemedicine, along with other healthcare facilities, are experiencing a positive influence from developing technologies. Among these technologies, augmented reality and virtual reality wearable devices have facilitated telehealth and telemedicine services the most. AR/ VR devices enhance the accessibility and efficiency of telehealth and telemedicine services, making them more beneficial for patients and providers.
The Benefits Of Telehealth And Telemedicine
Telehealth and telemedicine offer many benefits beyond comfort and convenience to patients and providers.
Let’s explore the benefits of both of them.
Benefits Of Telehealth
The benefits of telehealth include:
Increased Efficiency In Healthcare Facilities:
Telehealth offers comparable or increased competence of care for patients while reducing travel time without long waiting times and increasing the net cost of services. All these points result in increasing the efficiency of healthcare facilities.
Improved Accessibility To Healthcare Services:
Timely accessibility to healthcare services is a big challenge. Telehealth services are playing a crucial role in overcoming this challenge by improving the accessibility of healthcare globally by using technology.
Remote Patient Monitoring And Treatment:
With telehealth, monitoring patients’ conditioning, diagnosing diseases, and treatment remotely have become easier.
Patients and providers interlink using the internet and devices built for telemedicine services, bridging the physical gap between hospital settings and patients. Remote monitoring facilitates preventive health checkups and encourages patients to follow their physician’s instructions. Constant monitoring also helps patients to stick to a healthy routine.
Increased Patient Satisfaction:
Telehealth facilities increase patients’ and physician’s trust in healthcare services. Patients are more satisfied as accessibility and convenience to healthcare increase.
Increased Reach To Remote Areas:
Telehealth has enabled high-quality healthcare facilities in remote areas with limited healthcare infrastructure. It has evolved the concepts of time and place in healthcare, making it possible for everyone to get facilities from remote areas.
Reduced Exposure To Nosocomical And Infectious Diseases:
Hospitals carry a possible risk of acquiring nosocomial diseases or infectious agents. Telehealth reduces the number of visits to healthcare facilities, thus greatly reducing the risk of disease exposure.
Improvised Healthcare Education And Training:
Telehealth services have improved education and training in the healthcare industry, enabling students and healthcare workers to acquire world-class educational facilities easily. Improvised healthcare education and training drastically improve the quality of healthcare facilities.
Benefits Of Telemedicine
The benefits of telemedicine include:
Reduced Exposure To Pathogens:
Telemedicine reduces the number of visits to the healthcare facility for consultations, thus reducing exposure to communicable pathogens from hospitals or infected individuals. This feature is very important for vulnerable patients. Reducing exposure improves safety for patients and providers.
Constant Support For Patients With Chronic Diseases:
Patients with chronic diseases require frequent visits to their healthcare providers. In such a condition, telemedicine service is convenient and flexible, enabling them to skip frequent visitations while receiving constant support.
Increased Patient Compliance:
Patients often skip medicines or unfollow their physician’s advice with time. With telemedicine, patients stay connected to their healthcare providers, which results in increased compliance and better health outcomes.
Easy Accessibility At The Time Of Emergency:
Sometimes, it is hard to reach the healthcare facility during an emergency. Telemedicine overcomes this issue by connecting healthcare providers and needy patients through electronic communication technology. It also permits patients to access healthcare at any time of the day and from anywhere within the services area.
Medical Access For People Without Health Insurance:
Healthcare is expensive and often unreachable for people without health insurance. Telemedicine provides medical access for people in such scenarios as it is affordable compared to traditional healthcare facilities.
Is It Telehealth Or Telemedicine?
Telehealth and telemedicine both refer to remote healthcare facilities using technology. Although they are often confused, there are many differences between them. The following discussion summarises the similarities and differences between telehealth and telemedicine.
Telehealth includes a wide range of clinical and non-clinical healthcare services.
Telemedicine is a part of telehealth services focused on clinical healthcare services only.
Telehealth includes a range of healthcare-related facilities, including tracking, communication, keeping records, education and training, networking and many others.
Telemedicine only includes physician-to-patient online consultations.
Telehealth involves physicians, nurses, educators, allied health workers, pharmacists, nutritionists and frontline healthcare workers.
Telemedicine only involves healthcare professionals.
Telehealth uses artificial intelligence, cloud, electronic communication, and other advanced technologies.
Telemedicine involves using electronic communications only.
How do I know when to use telehealth vs. telemedicine?
You can use telemedicine when a discussion involves only remote services, including physicians and patients. Telehealth is used in various situations where remote healthcare facilities include non-clinical services, including education, record keeping, global networking, etc.
Telehealth and telemedicine are interrelated but different at the same time. They involve using technology to promote healthcare services remotely. Electronic communication technology, artificial intelligence, blockchain, cloud computing, and all advanced technologies are assisting the telehealth sector in improving its services. Augmented reality wearable devices are important in enhancing the efficiency and accessibility of telehealth and telemedicine services.