The healthcare industry has been evolving at a rapid pace since the onset of the pandemic as clinicians and healthcare providers look to improve access to care for patients. Thankfully, Telemedicine and Telehealth has made it easier for healthcare professionals to communicate and collaborate with their patients, thereby removing the hurdles which sometime delay access to medical care. A recent survey conducted by Canada Health Infoway which shows that 74% Canadians believe digital health has a positive impact on Canadian health system is a testament to that fact. And while Telehealth and Telemedicine are two of the most used terms in Canadian Healthcare industry not many know that these two terms cannot be used interchangeably. In fact, Telehealth and Telemedicine refer to two different segments of remote healthcare.
Telehealth refers to the extensive use of electronic records and information along with telecommunication technologies to provide long-distance health care including patient health education and resources, public health, and even health administration. Here are some common ways that Telehealth can be delivered:
- Video Consults and Conferencing – Video conferencing and video consults have rapidly grown in popularity since late 2019. Video consultations refer to real-time, two-way interaction between patients and clinicians which support health care services. Today, platforms like Microsoft Teams enable safe care coordination and consults while providing access to healthcare records in a single space for providers. One prime example of this type of telehealth service is a specialist examining a patient over a live video feed. Another example could be a remote training session broadcast from an academic medical center for physicians at a provider facility.
- Mobile Health – Mobile health is also referred to as mHealth and it is primarily used to deliver health information over mobile devices such as tablets and smartphones. With the advent of patient portals and apps Mobile Health has grown exponentially over the past few years in Canada- 32% of Canadian adults consult health apps on their mobile devices. An example of such kind of telehealth service includes preoperative instructions texted to a patient to prepare for a surgical procedure.
- Remote Health Monitoring or Remote Patient Monitoring (RPM) – Remote patient monitoring is gathering and transmitting of patient data to providers from patients location, often outside of traditional healthcare settings using information technology. The data gathered may include medical data such as blood pressure, blood glucose and blood oxygen readings.
- Other Asynchronous Services – Transmission of medical reports and scans fall into asynchronous services as there is no-real time interaction between clinician-clinician, or patient-clinicians.
Telemedicine vs Telehealth, in contrast, is limited in context to just delivery of clinical care. Telemedicine, therefore, is restricted to delivering care through use of telecommunication technology. Some basic examples of Telemedicine would therefore include:
- Remote videoconference for the purpose of supporting diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of diseases or injuries.
- Remote monitoring and support of a patient’s medical condition after therapy or surgery.
- Post-op follow-up visit through text message, phone call, or video conference.
- Post-op transmission of vitals such as blood pressure data, ECG, and blood sugar levels.
- Remote video conference consult with a medical specialist and coordination of care over platforms like Microsoft Teams.
- Remote management of a chronic condition.
How to differentiate Telehealth vs Telemedicine
- Not all videoconferencing is Telemedicine. For example, a videoconference between a health specialist and his medical students is telehealth since it’s non-clinical. However, a video consult between a patient and a doctor would be termed telemedicine since it relates to a clinical relationship which helps provide care.
- Not all asynchronous medical services are Telemedicine. For example, an academic publication intended to be used for education purposes is Telehealth but sharing an MRI scan of a patient digitally would be called Telemedicine.
- Not all mobile health services are Telemedicine. For example. A community health update or warning would be considered Telehealth, but providing instructions to patients for post-op followup would be called Telemedicine.