Telehealth vs. Telemedicine

Concept smartphone in hand, online consultation with doctor. Hea

Many people use the terms “telehealth” and “telemedicine” interchangeably. We’re guilty of it ourselves, on occasion. There are, however, certain technical differences between the two terms. While there are occasions in which the differences are insignificant and the apparent meaning of the two terms overlap, it’s important to understand the difference in scope between the two. Read on below for a discussion of the difference between telehealth and telemedicine from the telepsychiatry experts at Orbit Health.

What is Telehealth?

Telehealth refers broadly to all remote healthcare technologies and services. According to the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, the Health Resources Services Administration defines telehealth as “the use of electronic information and telecommunications technologies to support long-distance clinical health care, patient and professional health-related education, public health and health administration.”

Telehealth includes remote technologies, techniques, and various efforts aimed at improving healthcare by incorporating remote access technologies. Telehealth includes non-clinical services that are utilized in connection with remote medical care, including things like healthcare provider training, administrative meetings, continuing education, as well as including clinical services covered by the term “telemedicine” as discussed below. Technologies covered include videoconferencing, the internet, streaming media, wireless communications, and others.

What is Telemedicine?

Telemedicine, on the other hand, is a subset of telehealth. While telehealth refers more broadly to all remote technologies and processes that can be used across the healthcare system, telemedicine specifically refers to the provision of clinical medical services through the use of telecommunications technology.

Telemedicine involves the use of electronic communications software to provide clinical services to patients, connecting providers and patients across vast distances. At Orbit Health, for example, we provide telepsychiatry services–a form of telemedicine. Telemedicine can be used for initial visits and consultations, follow-up visits, management of chronic conditions, treatment for addiction, counseling, management of medication, consultation with specialists, and a wide range of other clinical services.

To summarize: All telemedicine is telehealth, but not all telehealth is telemedicine. Telemedicine is the particular clinical application of the more general concept of telehealth. Telehealth includes a broader scope of other remote healthcare services besides clinical treatment, in addition to long-distance clinical care. If you are a healthcare service provider and you conflate the two terms in passing, however, you are not alone; we’ll forgive you.

If you are a healthcare provider or employer who would benefit from a variety of licensed, experienced, and qualified psychiatric care specialists, reach out to Orbit Health to discuss your options for telepsychiatry today.

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