Telemedicine vs. Telehealth: What’s the Difference?
Posted by Janna Vienca Cañezal
The COVID-19 pandemic fueled a rapid change in how people access every corner of healthcare. The increasing use of healthcare technology produced a lot of buzzwords and confusion between technical terms. A frequent misunderstanding we continue to hear is the difference between telemedicine and telehealth.
Vendors, policy-makers, and healthcare organizations often use the two terms interchangeably, but there are noteworthy differences to remember when incorporating them into your vocabulary. Even if you already use these technologies, it pays to know the difference to stay compliant with ever-changing federal and state regulations and reimbursement policies.
So what is the difference between telemedicine and telehealth? Let's take it one term at a time.
What is Telehealth?
Telehealth is a broad range of health services using electronic information and telecommunications technology to provide remote healthcare services, public health and health administration, and patient and provider-related education. It includes remote services like telemedicine, prescription delivery, remote monitoring, provider-to-provider communication, health education, physician training, and more.
According to The Center for Connected Health Policy (CCHP), telehealth encompasses four distinct applications:
1. Live Video
A “real-time” two-way interaction between a person and a provider over audiovisual telecommunications technology. Historically, video conferencing is the most common telehealth application and is an effective tool for consults, education, diagnostic, and treatment services when distance is a barrier.
Store-and-forward is the electronic transmission of medical information to another healthcare provider outside of live interaction. The transmission is often over a secure email, and medical information can include MRIs, photos, laboratory results, X-rays, and even clips of video exams. Medical professionals typically use this during consultations when face-to-face contact or live video is not necessary.
3. Remote Patient Monitoring
Remote patient monitoring uses devices to collect medical data from an individual, then electronically transmit the data to a provider or a monitoring station for care and related medical support. Medical data can include vital signs, blood sugar, blood pressure, heart rate, and ECG. This type of service allows a provider to track and monitor a patient without the need for an in-person visit.
4. Mobile Health
Mobile health (mHealth) refers to the use of mobile phones in medical care. mHealth can range from text messages that promote healthy habits or send emergency alerts about disease outbreaks to mobile apps used to communicate with healthcare providers.
What is Telemedicine?
Telemedicine is a subset of telehealth and solely refers to remote clinical healthcare services. It involves the use of electronic communications and software to provide clinical care from a distance. Telemedicine is used for follow-up visits, medication management, chronic care management, and post-operative care.
Telemedicine makes healthcare more accessible and cost-effective. Providers can see more patients without the need to hire more staff or get a larger office space. Patients who previously had limited access to healthcare due to distance, time, and costs, can now see a physician without leaving their homes.
What is the Difference Between Telemedicine and Telehealth?
The main difference between the two terms is that telemedicine only refers to remote clinical services, whereas telehealth includes remote clinical and non-clinical services. Remote non-clinical services include administrative meetings, provider-to-provider consultation, continuing medical education, and other provider training.
Telehealth is not a specific service but a group of methods that improve and deliver remote patient care. It is an umbrella term used to provide remote care, and telemedicine falls under that umbrella.
The two terms are often misused in relation to provider video conferences. It is important to note that not all videoconferencing is telemedicine. A video conference between a provider and a patient is called telemedicine since it helps provide care and is clinical in nature. However, a video conference between a provider and his medical staff is telehealth since it’s non-clinical.
Televisit: The Answer to Your Telemedicine Needs
Implementing a telemedicine system can often seem daunting. Ever-changing insurance and federal policies make it even more challenging to establish a robust telehealth workflow in your practice.
One way to conveniently incorporate telemedicine into your workflow is to get a solution that’s fully integrated with your EHR. Televisit, Meditab’s telemedicine solution, allows you to see your patients virtually while supporting your already established clinical workflow. Much like an in-person visit, Televisit enables you to check-in patients, create visit notes, process payments, and more. With an integrated solution, you can perform a Televisit session and access your EHR outside the confines of your office.