In this day and age where technology, its services, or products are developing tremendously, it can be somewhat an overwhelming task to keep up with all of the recent advances. This perhaps explains why some technology vendors, policy makers, and even the advocacy groups more often than not use imprecise or rather speak out technical terms inconsistently. If you have ever found yourself in this position, and later on learned the meaning of the term you have already used, you will with no doubt feel guilty.
That being said, the field of healthcare and medicine is always changing with new advancements and breakthroughs in technology and medicine. There’re particularly many new medical jargons being used today that an ordinary patient may not be well conversant with. A case in point has to do with the terminologies telehealth and telemedicine, which evolved to enable an ever-increasing number of healthcare providers the capability to provide health, medical, and educational services to patients as well as their caregivers remotely. Doctors and most individuals in the medical field are likely to have heard these words before, but you will not be surprised to realize that some of them do not know their meaning or even telehealth and telemedicine difference. From the standard patient point of view, telehealth/telemedicine are indeed confusing, and some of them use interchangeably. Nonetheless, regardless of who is using the terms, it should be noted that there exists a clear distinction between the two as explained in the next sections.
Telehealth is defined as the use of electronic information as well as telecommunication technologies to basically provide long-distance health support services that are either clinical or non-clinical, which include virtual health care, health administration, public health, patient & professional health-related education, among others. Telehealth is typically divided into ‘store-and-forward’ and real-time communication. Nowadays, we have efficient remote communication technologies to achieve this objective, and it includes options such as streaming media, video conferencing, mobile devices (tablets or cell phones), and the internet. Fortunately, there is a broad range of solutions available in the market enabling remote communication, and one that is worth checking is ezTalks Cloud Meeting app. A good example of telehealth offering virtual information to virtual clients would be a patient portal where medical experts use an electronic health record app to distribute medical information to patients.
Telemedicine on the hand, as a more similar definition as telehealth. It primarily refers to diagnosis and treatment of patients with the help of remote software and a telecommunication device. Some other schools of thoughts define telemedicine as a subset of telehealth, but it solely refers to the provision of healthcare education and services to patients over a distance, perhaps through the use of virtual technologies. It seems the aspect of providing health care to patients without an in-person visit is common from both definitions. In day to day medical practices, telemedicine technology is often used for management of chronic conditions, follow-up visits, specialist consultation, medication management, and many other clinical services that can be offered remotely via audio connections and secure video.
As earlier mentioned, many people, including some medical service providers, have been using the terms telemedicine and telehealth interchangeably. Nonetheless, there exist several distinctions, some of which are explained here in.
First, according to World Health Organization (WHO), telehealth is based on computer-assisted telecommunication to offer support management, literature, surveillance, and access to medical knowledge while telemedicine solely uses telecommunications to diagnose and treat patients.
The second way to distinguish the two terms is by looking at the scope of operation. Telehealth includes a wide range of services and technologies to provide patient care as well as to improve the delivery of healthcare system as a whole. Telehealth is indeed different from the point of view that it refers to a wider scope of virtual health services than the telemedicine. While telemedicine specifically revolves around remote clinical services, telehealth, on the other hand, does not only deal with clinical services, but it also entails nonclinical health services that include administrative meetings, provision of training, and continuation of medical education.
The last difference between telehealth or telemedicine is on the part of the application. Telehealth’s monitoring and commination-based services are outstanding for empowering patient(s) with the ability to take an independent and active role in monitoring treatments as well as managing chronic conditions. On the other side hand, telemedicine’s web-based technologies provide healthcare practitioners with the abilities to outspread the effective range of their coverage.
Whether you call it telemedicine or telehealth, there is no doubt that the technologies currently used to revolutionize the healthcare sector and industry by typically connecting patients with doctors or physicians, despite their distance of separation and time, has come with immense benefits of proving access to vital health care. Nonetheless, those using these terms should as well understand them precisely so that when used in the daily patient-doctor communication, it does not create some ambiguity.