Even though the notions are often used interchangeably, telemedicine and telehealth are not the same – while both concepts combine medicine and telecommunication technologies, their exact fields are quite different.
What’s the distinction?
The broadest term of all mentioned, telehealth, bases on telecommunication and electronic technologies and services that are to provide remote healthcare to patients and keep developing the healthcare system itself.
Sometimes abbreviated to e-health, it includes a range of activities and areas:
- remote physician and specialist consultations,
- educational services,
- distance patient monitoring,
- remote health administration, among others.
Due to its versatility, telehealth has a wide scope of abilities – from diagnosis and evaluation of a patient’s health with no need of attending a consultory, to prescribing medications and undergoing treatments. Again – all from home.
It also includes health promotion and education, as well as different functions – storage and delivery of health information and health systems online management. What stands out within the area, are telehealth mobile applications that make full use of the possibilities new technologies give us.
Telehealth mobile applications
There is a great number of telehealth mobile applications that serve a range of purposes, for instance:
- apps that consist in general health and healthcare information based on data from your country,
- apps that connect you with a doctor in real time via videoconference,
- apps that store your recorded health history and forward it to a specialist when needed,
- patient monitoring apps that connect to telehealth devices and help you and your doctor to keep regularly informed about your health and your particular diseases.
To get to know the most common telehealth mobile apps, read our text Five most popular medical apps in the US.
Using telecommunication technologies, telemedicine focuses mainly on providing remote health services that consist in:
- teleconsultation with a physician or a specialist,
- medical evaluations and diagnosis,
- treatment and medicine prescription.
However, telemedicine isn’t only about online appointments with your doctor – its rage is slightly bigger as it also helps in regular health monitoring and happens to be a great help for parents with small children – mainly as it is conducted at home and can involve creative ways of involving children in the examination or treatment itself.
Usually, telemedicine requires only the use of a telephone or a computer with a stable internet connection. Yet, there are various technologies and devices that can help in a more detailed examination and thus in getting a more precise diagnosis. What are the best examples of these?
- Higo, a telemedicine kit including a device connected to a mobile app. It allows patients to self-examine themselves and send detailed information to a doctor. To read more about its uses, check this article.
- Zio, a wearable cardiac monitor that helps to diagnose an irregular heart rhythm and collect data for your doctor.
- Awa, a bracelet (worn only at night) and a mobile application for women to provide them with real time, personalized information about their fertility, pregnancy, and general health.
Lately, as the COVID-19 pandemic developed, many other tele-notions referring to health-related area started to emerge. Some of them would be quite equivalent to what telehealth or telemedicine are, however others would note more detailed practice. What are these?
- Telecare – consisting in devices such as telephones or computers connected to the internet, it enables remote care to patients. Helping to go through treatment, recovery, and well-being practices at home, it bases on regular monitoring. Also, some would include lifestyle and social monitoring within telecare.
- Teleconsultation – a video or a phone consultation with a physician or specialist. Including remote second option (RSO), too.
- Telematics for health – term used mainly by the World Health Organisation (WHO), which they define as “composite term for both telemedicine and telehealth, or any health-related activities carried out over distance by means of information communication technologies”.
Finally, it is important to remember that each country or region can slightly change their understanding of the definitions and, most importantly, their regulations allowing telehealth and telemedicine to be applied in their territory. To read more about regulations and practices in different countries, check this article.