HumanIT Blog

The Difference Between Telehealth and Telemedicine

August 23, 2016

Written By: James "Jamey" Edwards


The Difference Between Telehealth and Telemedicine

In a world that is constantly expanding with the help of technology, it comes of no surprise that the medical field is one of the primary subjects of the technological revolution. Moreover, outpatient care, management, and hospital communication, among many other services, have been organized into their own distinct verticals.

While cutting edge innovations such as our very own Video Remote Interpreting (VRI) system, Martti (which stands for My Accessible Real Time Trusted Interpreter), and Carenection, our telehealth delivery platform, certainly make life considerably easier for the healthcare industry, the internalized jargon often associated with them is not always quite so simple. In the healthcare community, telehealth and telemedicine are often seen as interchangeable, though this is not quite the case. The distinction lies in the matter of scope in which telehealth encompasses a broader range of services and telemedicine more directly embodies direct clinical care. In order to learn more about both of these terms and what they mean for you, we’ve taken the time to explore them further.

Telehealth and Telemedicine Defined

Telehealth and telemedicine are services which are described by members of the healthcare community as technologies that link patients to their providers at every phase of their healing process. It is a simple definition, but when a domain is as large as this, distinctions will occur with terminology. The difference is simply stated as the difference in clinical and non-clinical affairs. But what defines these domains which are broad in themselves? Telehealth is used for electronic communication, management, information, and statistic reading whereas telemedicine is used for treating and diagnosing patients remotely.  In some cases, it gets even more confusing with Direct Patient Care sometimes being considered telehealth while e-consult driven physician to physician consultation being referred to as telemedicine.

Sheesh. Makes the head spin 😉

With this distinction in mind, it should be noted that this is not necessarily a universally accepted differentiation. As time goes on, the gap in the distinction lessens as the words merge into a single concept simply describing the evolutionary and crucial role of technology such as LAN’s video remote interpreting service, Martti, in the field of healthcare.  We believe that the provision on an interpreter is of great value to a clinical consult.  Any provider will tell you that the primary driver behind any appropriate diagnosis depends on communication between patient and provider.  A proper patient and family history, discussion of current symptoms, and understanding of the medications the patient may be on help a provider narrow their focus and pinpoint the key determinants of a diagnosis.  In fact, just like cardiology, dermatology or neurology, we will sometimes push the limits of good grammar and refer to what we do as “language-ology” as communication is fundamental to every patient – provider encounter.

When it comes to the telemedicine vs. telehealth debate, at the present time the distinction is still recognized by many healthcare professionals.  We believe knowledge is power though and everyone should be able to know the definition of such jargon since healthcare is a part of everyone’s life in some way, shape or form. Thanks to telemedicine, healthcare disparities can be addressed using technology to connect patients to providers for clinical encounters. Thanks to telehealth, people are able to research their diagnosis or receive text alerts or coaching that can guide their care. Telehealth opens up communication and learning where telemedicine assists in its application clinically.

In both cases, the communication between doctor and patient is made much easier thanks to technological innovations. The difference between telehealth and telemedicine is, afterall, a small distinction. What is important for us all to realize is that the adoption of these technologies in medicine will continue to allow us to humanize healthcare and benefit medical personnel and patients alike for years to come.

To simplify things, shouldn’t we just be calling it “healthcare” anyway?

Help us keep the dialogue going.

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