Telehealth vs. Telemedicine: What’s the Difference?

by
Raven Cobb
Clearstep Team

Telehealth and telemedicine are two terms you will see a lot when looking at modern healthcare. 

You might wonder if the two terms are interchangeable. Or if there is a difference between the two terms.

This article will define telehealth and telemedicine, their differences, and how they improve patient care.

Related: 8 Benefits of Telemedicine That Health Systems Should Know

What is Telehealth?

Telehealth is defined as using telecommunications technology to support the long-distance sharing of medical information, remote clinical care, health administration, professional and patient health-related education, and public health information programs

Telehealth is conducted via a number of technologies, including the internet, streaming media, videoconferencing, teleconferencing, store-and-forward imaging, and email using wireless and terrestrial communications technology.

Examples of Telehealth

  • Administrative Meetings
  • Two-Way Communications with a Healthcare Provider via Email, Phone, or Patient Portals
  • Remote Patient Monitoring
  • Public Health Education
  • Mental Health and Counseling Services
  • Health Coaching and Resources
  • Fulfillment of Online Pharmacy Requests
  • Online Medical Billing

Do you want to know how Clearstep’s Smart Care Routing™ helps increase patient satisfaction and retention? Click here to learn more about Clearstep’s patient-centric approach!

What is Telemedicine?

Telemedicine is a branch of telehealth that deals only with providing health care services and education using telecommunications technology and software to connect remotely between two different locations. 

The best way to understand telemedicine is by understanding its methods and services.

Examples of Telemedicine

Here are three common examples of telemedicine:

Real-Time Telemedicine Appointments 

For real-time telemedicine appointments, patients and providers typically use video conferencing software. This technology lets the patient and medical provider see each other and talk back and forth. Sometimes, patients can use real-time telemedicine visits instead of in-person visits to the doctors. 

This mode of telemedicine is often used for urgent, primary, and follow-up care. Healthcare providers will often use real-time telemedicine to manage chronic illnesses and medications. Real-time telemedicine helps to expand patient access. 

Store-and-Forward Telemedicine

Store-and-forward telemedicine is sometimes called “asynchronous telemedicine.” This method of telemedicine lets healthcare providers share critical patient medical information like patient histories, imaging, videos, and other data with another doctor or specialist in another location. 

It’s similar to email in its simplicity. However, it is developed and deployed with sophisticated security features that ensure the confidentiality of a patient’s records when transmitted from one location to another.

Store-and-forward telemedicine makes collaboration between patients, primary care providers, and specialists simple, efficient, and viewable on an on-demand basis, at their convenience.

This telemedicine style gives patients access to a team of specialists worldwide. It is very popular for diagnosing and treating specialties like radiology, ophthalmology, and dermatology.

Remote Patient Monitoring

Remote patient monitoring, sometimes called “telemonitoring,” allows healthcare providers to track a patient’s activities and vital signs remotely using personal electronic devices. 

Healthcare providers often use remote patient monitoring for chronic, high-risk patients or those who have just been released from a hospital. Remote patient monitoring can track many patient symptoms like blood pressure, glucose levels, weight, and sleep apnea. 

Patients like remote patient monitoring because it can save them from frequent follow-up appointments at the doctor and gives them some control over managing their symptoms and conditions.

Healthcare providers like remote patient monitoring because it provides real-time, trackable data. They can use this data to understand better how a patient’s course of care is progressing. And for them to take proactive measures should they see irregularities or abnormal readings. 

Related: What is Telemedicine? A Complete Guide

Patient Taking Temperature on Telemedicine Call

What Are The Main Differences Between Telehealth and Telemedicine?

The terms telehealth and telemedicine are similar and often used interchangeably.   

Telehealth is an umbrella term that includes clinical, non-clinical, administrative, and educational healthcare services delivered using telecommunication technology. 

Telemedicine is the use of telecommunications technology to diagnose and treat patients remotely. Telemedicine is the segment of telehealth that provides clinical services to patients geographically separated from their healthcare providers.

Where telemedicine is patient-focused, telehealth covers all aspects of the healthcare system that use telecommunications technology to connect and interact remotely.

How Does Telemedicine Improve Patient Experiences?

Telemedicine improves patient experiences in several ways.

Accessible and Efficient Patient Care

Telemedicine can provide access to patients who live in remote or other underserved areas. These patients might otherwise have to forgo medical treatment or travel extended distances to receive quality medical care.  

In addition, AI chatbots like Clearstep’s Virtual Triage can quickly and accurately assess a patient’s symptoms and then quickly and correctly route patients to the right level of care required.

Cost-Effectiveness

Virtual triage, remote monitoring, and real-time telemedicine appointments can save patients money from taking time off work to go to unnecessary doctor visits and emergency rooms.

Availability of Specialists 

Telemedicine allows patients in remote locations to have access to specialists from around the world. In addition, store-and-forward telemedicine makes it easy for healthcare systems to share medical files quickly, easily, and securely with their specialist colleagues. 

This remote collaboration can significantly improve patient care.

Improved Quality of Care

Clearstep’s Clinical Journeys can provide personalized healthcare management and remote patient monitoring customized for each patient. It makes it easier for healthcare providers to follow up and monitor patients’ recovery progress in real-time.

Remote patient monitoring also helps empower patients to control and manage their healthcare from their homes without frequent doctor visits. 

Higher Patient Satisfaction

A patient satisfaction survey from the NIH stated that over 82% of those polled were either satisfied or very satisfied with their treatment via telemedicine.

Patient Services from Clearstep can help patients manage their healthcare more efficiently. They can find doctors, book appointments, verify insurance, refill prescriptions, and pay bills, all from the comfort of their homes. 

Are you ready to learn more about Clearstep's Smart Care Routing™ Platform? Click Here to Schedule a Demo!

Doctor on Telemedicine Call

Summary

Telehealth and telemedicine are two terms that are often mistakenly used interchangeably.

Telehealth encompasses any medical interaction between two parties using telecommunication technologies and software. 

Telemedicine is a telehealth component that focuses on patients’ clinical treatment remotely from a healthcare provider in a different physical location using telecommunication technology platforms and software.

Patients embraced telemedicine during the pandemic. As a result, healthcare systems continue looking for clinical AI chat solutions like Clearstep’s Smart Care Routing™ to expand patients’ remote access and care management. 

This simplified, streamlined, remote experience will increase patient satisfaction and retention across their health system.

Related: How AI Chat Increases Health Systems’ Clinical Capacity and Builds Brand Loyalty

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