Difference between Telemedicine and Telehealth

The terms, mix of medical and technology i.e. Telemedicine and Telehealth are indistinguishable. But the way of delivering the services through different means that makes it distinctive. The distribution of medical care services using communication and information technology (IT) to the diseased from a certain distance is known as Telemedicine. On the other hand, Telehealth is a broad term encompassing all the health-related information.

Telehealth is a much wider concept than telemedicine as it is a wholesome phenomenon of providing health-related education, diagnosis, treatment, and also raising awareness about various health issues. Telemedicine only defines the use of technology to treat the patients but Telehealth also covers non-clinical services such as health campaigns, management training, health education, surveillance etc.

Although both refer to health-care industry and their objectives are inter-related yet there are peculiar variations in both the concepts. To differentiate the terms for our better understanding we can express it in a phrase as, “All telemedicine is Telehealth, but not all Telehealth is telemedicine”. Telemedicine comprises of mainly 3 elements such as remote patient monitoring, store and forward, interactive technologies but Telehealth includes one more component i.e. m-health.

The figure clearly represents that telemedicine has a narrower scope than Telehealth. We can also say that telemedicine is one of the attributes of Telehealth. In layman’s language, it can be expressed that ‘Telehealth is the destination where telemedicine defines the path for it’. Telemedicine is a measure to deal with the curative therapies but Telehealth is concerned about preventive measures also.

So, what is the Difference Between Telemedicine and Telehealth?

Telemedicine and telehealth are related terms that are often used interchangeably, but they have slightly different meanings. Both involve the use of technology to provide healthcare services remotely, but they encompass different aspects of remote healthcare delivery.

  1. Telemedicine: Telemedicine specifically refers to the remote clinical services provided by healthcare professionals to patients through the use of telecommunications technology. It involves the diagnosis, treatment, and monitoring of patients’ health conditions from a distance. Telemedicine often involves real-time interactions between healthcare providers and patients, similar to traditional in-person clinical visits, but conducted through video calls, phone calls, or even secure messaging platforms. Examples of telemedicine include virtual doctor’s appointments, remote consultations, and even remote surgical procedures performed with the assistance of robotic technology.
  2. Telehealth: Telehealth is a broader term that encompasses a wider range of remote healthcare services beyond just clinical care. It includes both clinical and non-clinical services that use technology to provide healthcare-related information, education, monitoring, and support. Telehealth encompasses activities like remote patient monitoring (tracking patients’ vital signs and health data remotely), health education delivered through digital platforms, and administrative aspects like managing medical records and appointments through online systems.

In essence, while telemedicine is a subset of telehealth, telehealth covers a more extensive range of healthcare services that extend beyond direct clinical care. It includes both clinical interactions (like diagnosis and treatment) and other health-related services (like education and monitoring).

It’s worth noting that the terminology and definitions can vary depending on the context and region. The key takeaway is that both telemedicine and telehealth leverage technology to improve healthcare access and delivery remotely, but telehealth encompasses a broader spectrum of remote healthcare services.

Does It Replace the Physical Visit?

Telemedicine and telehealth are not necessarily intended to replace all physical visits to healthcare facilities, but they can serve as valuable alternatives in certain situations. Whether a physical visit is replaced by a remote interaction depends on various factors, including the nature of the medical condition, the preferences of the patient, and the judgment of the healthcare provider.

Here’s a breakdown of when telemedicine and telehealth might replace or complement physical visits:

  1. Replace Physical Visits:
    • Non-Emergency Consultations: For routine check-ups, follow-up appointments, medication management, and minor health issues, telemedicine can often replace the need for an in-person visit.
    • Chronic Condition Management: Patients with chronic conditions that require regular monitoring and adjustment of treatment plans can benefit from remote monitoring through telehealth platforms.
    • Mental Health Services: Teletherapy and remote counseling sessions can be effective for managing various mental health conditions.
    • Health Education: Telehealth can be used for providing health education, preventive care information, and lifestyle management advice.
  2. Complement Physical Visits:
    • Complex Diagnoses: Some medical conditions require in-person examinations, diagnostic tests, and physical assessments that cannot be replicated through telemedicine alone.
    • Emergency Situations: For urgent or life-threatening situations, in-person medical attention is critical and cannot be replaced by telehealth.
    • Physical Examinations: Certain medical issues might require hands-on physical examinations that can’t be fully accomplished through remote consultations.

In many cases, healthcare providers might use a combination of both in-person visits and remote interactions to deliver comprehensive care. Telemedicine and telehealth are often viewed as tools that enhance accessibility, convenience, and continuity of care, especially in situations where in-person visits might be difficult or unnecessary.

Applications for Healthcare

Both applications are the provisions for expanding the health amenities to the individuals which are in dire requirement of it. The faster growth relates it to the reason that it provides the quick mechanism to communicate with the physicians. And, also the evaluations and recommendations by several clinicians simultaneously make it more worthy. Certain medical surveys have already conveyed us that many lives have been saved by integration of technology and medical field.

The distinction between two terms has also been acknowledged by World Health Organization (WHO). According to which, telemedicine is merely responsible for examining and treating the patient through information technology but Telehealth takes care of different aspects of the health-related field like educating the individual about health issues, watch over rising micro-organisms spreading diseases, enable the services to be approachable as far as possible.

The applications of the advanced technology in the health industry have made it possible for us to surpass the broader scientific definitions. So, whether it is Telemedicine or Telehealth, both are associated with delivering medical services and fulfilling the health-care demands. The ambiguity of the terms simply cannot mislead us in ignoring its benefits in the medical field.

It has completely revolutionized the medical services by reaching out in far areas where traditional clinic services have no accessibility. Therefore, we should feel comfortable with one definition and that is delivering the health-care services to the needed ones using telecommunications. Thus, the subjectivity of the concept should be given more importance as compared to the objective terms and definitions.

Health IT