Technology has greatly benefited our lives in almost all aspects. Of course, health care is another area that has taken advantage of the evolution of hardware and software in order to make the lives of patients and health care professionals alike more convenient.
Telehealth and telemedicine are two terms that are constantly being thrown around nowadays, as both are claimed to be the future of health care. Still, there is still some confusion as to what these are all about, and if they have any differences at all between the two.
This article aims to distinguish telemedicine and telehealth from each other, as well as the benefits that these models provide.
What’s the Difference Between Telemedicine and Telehealth?
Telemedicine and telehealth are two terms that are often used interchangeably. While their definitions have many similarities, there are subtle differences between the two. Perhaps the biggest difference between telemedicine and telehealth is scope, which we will discuss later on.
Both paradigms, however, utilize technology in the form of hardware, software, and the Internet to help improve the health care system. Depending on the model being discussed, these can benefit doctors, patients, hospitals, and other medical establishments and entities.
What is Telemedicine?
Telemedicine, as defined by the World Health Organization, means “healing from a distance”. This is one of the most apt definitions for telemedicine as this pertains to the use of technology to create a communication portal between doctors and patients for the purpose of consultation, diagnosis, and treatment.
Telemedicine usually utilizes video, voice, email, and other means of communication so that proper health care can be provided and received. This means that physical consultation wherein doctors and patients would need to be face to face are now literally a thing of the past.
Telemedicine allows for patients to communicate with doctors from across the country in an instant, without the need to travel or queue up in the hospital. Doctors, on the other hand, can handle patients without leaving their office or even the comfort of their home.
Telemedicine, in a nutshell, basically includes features that benefit patients such as being able to provide information and other services to patients such as for checkups, inquiries, and even for the prescription and reordering of medicine. However, there are some functions of health care that blur the line between telemedicine and telehealth.
What is Telehealth?
Telehealth is the umbrella that covers telemedicine and other services. Aside from patient and doctor engagement, telehealth refers to non-clinical services that still support health care. These can include information dissemination in the event of disease outbreaks, patient monitoring records, and training portals, among others.
Store and forward technologies, as well as remote health tracking devices and apps, are parts of telehealth, although some aspects of telemedicine are also covered. This actually makes some specific areas harder to define than others.
Store and forward relates to the automatic sending of lab tests to the specialist for examination, while the remote monitoring apps and devices are capable of providing real-time and automatic recording, and possibly sending, of physical activity and vitals, among others, for review.
Aside from providing information to the public, telehealth also covers administrative tasks within a medical establishment. These can include an online pharmacy, a database of patient records and history, as well as the ability to hold meetings with other specialists and staff.
Other telehealth systems even integrate payroll, accounting, and human resource functionalities as well. As such, telehealth encompasses everything that a hospital, health centre, clinic, or private practice needs in order to operate and serve the public and at a much better and productive rate with the use of technology.
Simply put, telemedicine covers all the features and functionalities that are needed to make patients better, while telehealth covers that as well as other major and minor functions in order to make telemedicine work at optimum levels.
Benefits of Telemedicine and Telehealth
Regardless of what is being talked about, it cannot be denied that both telehealth and telemedicine can provide some great benefits to the current health care system. There are various advantages that can be felt by all components involved in the medical field – whether as a client or supplier.
As technology further evolves and progresses, we will be able to reap even more from telehealth and telemedicine, and the scope will be much wider in the future as well.
Benefits that the public as well as the health care system itself can enjoy include but are not limited to:
- Prevention of spread of infection
- Energy conservation as transportation will no longer be required
- Fewer queues in hospitals
- Decreased overhead expenses for utilities, rental space, and manpower
- Increased revenue due to wider market reach
- Lower direct or indirect patient costs
- More accurate and real-time recording and updating of data
- Instant access to patient records
- Higher patient satisfaction and level of engagement
- Better work-life balance for health practitioners
- Reduction of redundancy due to consolidated and centralized systems
- Perpetuity of data such as training materials, health history, etc.
- The more efficient and effective operational flow
Regardless of their definitions, telehealth and, at a smaller scale, telemedicine, is capable of providing some great benefits to the health care system as well as to the general public. These technologies have made disseminating information about health easier and have improved the way that we can improve our physical and mental well-being.
Telehealth and telemedicine is an evolving and growing trend in the medical industry. As technology evolves, there will also be a sort of paradigm shift in the field. Manpower requirements may change, and job skills will evolve. Patients will also have an entirely new process should they wish to seek medical attention.
Insurance policies, as well as both national and local government regulations, will need to keep up with these trends as well. Regardless of their differences, telemedicine and telehealth are sure to make an even bigger impact in the years to come, and we should all be prepared for these massive changes in the industry that can affect all of our lives.