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The differences between telemedicine, telehealth, and telecare

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Multiple factors including the COVID-19 pandemic and the proliferation of mobile devices have led to increased interest in remote medical solutions. The ability to provide different kinds of healthcare remotely has many benefits for patients and medical professionals. The future of healthcare delivery will rely on solutions such as remote medical assistance.

Words such as telecare, telehealth, and telemedicine are all commonly used when discussing remote healthcare. While these terms are all related, they address different aspects of providing healthcare remotely. At times, there can be some confusion regarding their meaning and usage. In this article, we will look more closely at these terms and identify how they differ.

What is Telemedicine?

The World Health Organization (WHO) defines telemedicine as “the delivery of health care services, where distance is a critical factor, by all health care professionals using information and communication technologies for the exchange of valid information to improve the health of individuals and their communities.”

Telemedicine is a subset of telehealth that primarily refers to providing patients with remote clinical services. Electronic communication and software solutions are used to offer telemedical services to individuals without the need to conduct a physical meeting with a healthcare provider. Only certain types of healthcare can be obtained through telemedicine solutions, as procedures that require physical contact like operations cannot currently be performed remotely.

what is telemedicine

Common Applications of Telemedicine

  • Online screening and remote patient engagement can be performed before individuals enter a healthcare facility.
  • • Patients can engage in virtual consultations with specialists that would be beyond their reach using traditional healthcare delivery methods.
  • • Remote patient monitoring telehealth solutions enable providers to obtain real-time information that contributes to better outcomes.
  • • Telehealth and telemedicine support for the individuals in rural areas enables a larger percentage of the population to benefit from innovative healthcare techniques and information.
  • Virtual dentist visits are another application of telemedical services that can help bring healthcare to a wider audience.

What is Telehealth?

Telehealth is the term used to describe the wide range of services and technologies healthcare professionals employ to improve all features of the healthcare delivery system. Telehealth encompasses many aspects of the healthcare industry. Telemedicine is just one facet of telehealth that focuses on providing remote clinical services.

telehealth

Different Types of Telehealth Processes

  • Remote monitoring is a telehealth solution that is also considered telemedicine. It can be performed to monitor chronic conditions such as asthma or blood sugar level, providing real-time data for healthcare professionals and software applications. Telecare, which we will discuss in more detail shortly, is another subset of telehealth.
  • • Facilitating administrative meetings in the interest of improving healthcare through electronic communications is considered a telehealth activity.
  • Employee training in the healthcare field is another category of telehealth that cannot be ignored. It’s important to ensure that the healthcare workforce is educated about the technology and regulatory standards associated with their jobs.
  • Counseling and mental health services delivered electronically and over the phone qualify as telehealth support services.
  • Patient portals used to dispense healthcare information can be considered both telehealth and telemedicine solutions.
  • • Software solutions that facilitate secure patient-to-provider communication are telehealth solutions that improve the healthcare system by implementing better data security.

As you can see, a wide variety of activities can be categorized as telehealth solutions. The term is not confined to the actual delivery of healthcare but is also concerned with the infrastructure required to perform telehealth support services. All activities performed electronically with the intention of improving healthcare can be considered telehealth.

What is Telecare?

Telecare is a specific application of telehealth support services that is designed to remotely monitor patients from their homes. Multiple technologies are used to provide remote patient monitoring telehealth solutions for patients who need to be watched continuously or are at heightened risk of injury. Telecare makes it possible for healthcare professionals to remain in constant contact with their patients.

telehealth support services

Patients can enjoy several benefits from telecare that save time, money, and contribute to better outcomes.

  • • Patients will need fewer in-person checkups since their condition is constantly being monitored.
  • • Less time will be spent in the hospital and patients can become more engaged in self-managing their care.
  • • A majority of patients feel safer knowing that someone is always nearby, even if only virtually.

Both chronic and temporary conditions can be addressed with telecare. Examples of the type of data flow possible with telecare solutions include:

  • • Blood pressure and glucose monitoring;
  • • Monitoring cardiac conditions like arrhythmia;
  • • Reminding patients to take medications.

Many different electronic devices are used in the delivery of telecare including:

  • • Wearable biosensors that can monitor various aspects of a patient’s vital signs;
  • • Minimum room temperature sensors;
  • • Carbon monoxide detectors;
  • • Fall and movement sensors;
  • • Communication hubs and base units that enable patients and providers to stay connected.

The healthcare team responsible for delivering telecare may need to access these devices when they experience issues or failures. The ability to remotely address issues without physically visiting the equipment facilitates better care and is essential for telecare to reach its full potential.

Conclusion

telecare, telehealth, and telemedicine

It can be confusing to differentiate between telecare, telehealth, and telemedicine. The common characteristic of the three terms is their use in bringing healthcare to a larger share of the population. Telehealth essentially refers to all electronically performed activities related to improving society’s healthcare. It includes the administrative and educational components of healthcare. Telemedicine and telecare are subsets of telehealth designed to interact with individuals to promote better healthcare outcomes.


FAQ

What are examples of telemedicine?
Telemedicine has many diverse applications. Examples of telemedicine solutions include:
  • • Portals that allow patients to view healthcare information and perform functions like scheduling appointments and renewing prescriptions;
  • • Virtual doctor’s visits that enable social distancing to be maintained while delivering personalized service to remote patients;
  • • Remote monitoring of post-operative patients to provide enhanced care and reduce the length of hospital stays.
How is a telemedicine visit done?
A telemedicine visit can be initiated by either a healthcare provider like a doctor or a patient. The visit can be scheduled or conducted when the need arises and should be done using secure communication software to connect the remote parties. Provider and patient should also be in a private location to minimize access to information shared during the visit
Is a phone call considered telehealth?
A phone call can be considered a form of telehealth when used for activities such as conducting a follow-up call with a patient. Video calls can often be used to replace in-person consultations. This saves time, money, and promotes social distancing where necessary.
What are the 3 different types of telemedicine?
The three types of telemedicine are:
  • • Real-time telemedicine such as virtual doctor’s visits that use mobile devices or computers;
  • • Store-and-forward telemedicine where healthcare providers share patient information using secure and dedicated software solutions;
  • • Remote patient monitoring that enables healthcare professionals to track the condition of physically distant patients.
What documentation is required for telehealth?
The documentation that comprises the minimum requirements for documenting a telehealth activity include:
  • • The method of telehealth;
  • • The location of the provider;
  • •A list of all clinical participants and their roles;
  • • Patient location;
  • • Time spent on the visit;
  • • Patient consent.
Does telehealth require video?
Video is not a requirement for telehealth but can make its applications more effective. Telehealth support services that incorporate video allow healthcare providers to more accurately gauge the well-being of the patients with whom they are conducting virtual visits.