The use of telemedicine and telehealth is not new. They have benefited many communities with limited access to medical care. However, during COVID-19, the use of such services has gained fresh momentum. Innovative solutions have helped to address the challenge of person-to-person consultations and grant access to care services.
According to McKinsey, during the pandemic, medical providers have been able to offer remote clinical services via telehealth to 50 to 175 times the number of patients they did before. Mayo Clinic, for example, offers a wide range of telehealth services, from remote reviews of test results to virtual consultations.
The words ‘telemedicine’ and ‘telehealth’ are often used interchangeably, but this is a common misconception. Let’s take a closer look at each of these terms and define the difference between them.
Telemedicine refers to the use of telecommunications to provide remote clinical services. Telemedicine technology is often used for real-time two-way communication between the healthcare provider and another provider or patient.
Telehealth is a broader term than telemedicine. It goes beyond the application of electronic and telecommunications technologies solely for the provision of remote clinical services. Telehealth also includes training, administrative meetings and medical education services, among other things. According to the Center for Connected Health Policy, there are four key components of telehealth: live video, store and forward, remote patient monitoring (RPM) and mobile health.
The development of digital technologies is an enabling component of remote health services. The top technologies powering telehealth and telemedicine solutions include:
The main difference between telemedicine and telehealth lies in the scope of medical services that are offered via telecommunications. Telemedicine refers only to clinical services and exclusively focuses on direct patient care. Beyond clinical services, telehealth also deals with a wider range of educational, administrative and non-clinical healthcare activities.
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