The current COVID-19 healthcare crisis has led to an increase in the consumption of telehealth services, an accessible alternative to in-office visits with a healthcare provider. (In fact, right now, healthcare providers can use RingCentral Office for free to connect remotely with staff and patients.)
Though sometimes the terms “telemedicine” and “telehealth” are used interchangeably, they do not mean the same thing. Telehealth services and telemedicine are different concepts, yet they work together to deliver quality healthcare outcomes to patients. To avoid confusion for patients, here’s a look at what each term really encompasses.
What is telemedicine?
Telemedicine refers to using technology to deliver medical care at a distance. Specifically, telemedicine applies to the remote delivery of clinical services. Here’s an example:
Liz has Type 2 diabetes. She uses a smart glucose monitor to check her blood sugar. Her monitor connects to her cell phone, and an application sends the results to her doctor. Liz’s doctor can review the results and then contact her if a negative trend emerges.
What is telehealth?
The term telehealth refers to the use of electronic information and telecommunications technologies to support remote healthcare. Telehealth has a broader scope than telemedicine; while telemedicine focuses on clinical care, telehealth services include long-distance healthcare and patient education.
Download Getting started with telehealth services: the essential checklist
Some of the technologies used in telehealth services include video conferencing, email, and telephony, and each one offers its own unique benefit when it comes to supporting remote healthcare.
1. Doctors hold secure video conferences with patients
We’ll go back to the example of Liz to illustrate how telehealth vs. telemedicine works. Let’s say Liz’s doctor notices an unusual trend in her glucose test results. He wants to make sure that she’s aware of it and that she takes steps to fix the problem. The doctor can set up a secure video conference so that he can see Liz face-to-face.
2. Providers connect to care teams for better patient outcomes
Healthcare providers can also use telehealth services to connect to other providers to ensure that patients receive the best possible care. We’ll illustrate with another example:
Joe has just undergone hip replacement surgery and is recovering in the hospital. Using telehealth services, Joe’s primary care physician, surgeon, and physical therapist can hold a video conference to discuss Joe’s progress. They can also seamlessly invite Joe’s nurse, who offers an update on Joe’s recovery. Once the members of Joe’s care team have a deeper insight into the situation, they develop a treatment plan, including post-discharge care.
3. Patients reach providers quickly and easily with questions
Additionally, patients can use telehealth services to access healthcare support if they have questions about their treatment plans, instead of booking in-person appointments with their doctor. A healthcare facility with a patient access center gives patients the opportunity to connect with providers quickly and easily. Let’s go back to the previous example:
After discharge, Joe has a question about his physical therapy exercises. Joe calls the patient access center and is connected with his physical therapist, who gives Joe the answers he needs to start healing without delay.
Telehealth services benefit the patient experience
Thanks to telehealth services, providers can connect to patients as well as other members of care teams, while patients have greater flexibility in how they connect with providers. Deliver the ideal patient experience. See how cloud communications are transforming healthcare. Get the demo today.
Originally published Jun 02, 2020, updated Oct 19, 2021