When looking at the administration of telehealth and telemedicine services, there are many obvious similarities between the two. In fact, they’re so similar that many patients and even practitioners use the terms interchangeably. While this may simplify discussions regarding the issues, the comparison isn’t technically accurate.

The fact is that telehealth is far more encompassing that telemedicine. This becomes important when considering issues like the provision of non-clinical services, training and intensive outpatient programs (IOP). For patients and their families seeking services, it’s essential to understand these distinctions.

Telehealth vs Telemedicine: A General Overview

The easiest way to understand the difference in telehealth vs telemedicine services is to recognize that one offering fits into the other. Telemedicine is considered a form of telehealth, so the latter term has a far more expansive meaning. While both are geared towards the provision of remote health services, the distinctions come down to what’s actually provided.

What is Telemedicine?

Telemedicine provides health consumers with remote clinical services. This essentially boils down to the doctor-patient relationship. By practicing medicine from a distance through the use of technology, physicians are directly engaged in the telemedical provision of healthcare.

The majority of telemedicine visits in previous years have been related to substance abuse, anxiety, and general mental health issues. Ever since 2017, though, primary care visits outpaced other telemedicine services. Primary care and telemental health, however, continuously comprise the bulk of telemedicine.

What is Telehealth?

In addition to including telemedical services, telehealth goes beyond the traditional doctor-patient interaction in a remote clinical setting. On top of this, non-clinical services are also offered. This could include hosting administrative meetings, overseeing provider training, offering continuing medical education, and more.

The use of telehealth has consistently been growing over time, but due to the coronavirus pandemic, these services expanded quickly in 2020. In fact, experts predicted that at least 1 billion telehealth interactions would take place before the year’s end. The expansive nature of these services can be hard to understand, so consider just a few examples:

  • Telepharmacy: A single pharmacist can provide supervision to technicians at multiple locations. They can also perform counseling via a screen rather than face-to-face interactions.
  • Telenursing: Digital communication allows nurses to interact with patients in a variety of ways. This can include guidance involving ER visits, at-home care education, scheduling appointments and explaining treatment options.
  • Telehealth in addiction recovery: Both group and individual sessions can be offered for individuals fighting addiction. Psychiatric care can also be provided. At Transformations Treatment Center, IOP services in addition to multiple sessions are held each week.
  • Telecare: Technology can now assist in helping consumers stay safe while maintaining independence in their own homes. Digital tools such as sensors and apps are highly utilized. Volunteers also make daily calls to check on and help patients stay connected.

These examples show the true nature of the telehealth vs telemedicine distinction. While both are integral to current healthcare provisions, the former ensures you can focus on the entirety of your well-being even when not interacting directly with a physician.

How Coronavirus Shaped Telehealth

The explosion in the use of telehealth services that accompanied the emergence of COVID-19 isn’t surprising. Hospitals saw an incredible decrease in the number of heart attacks, strokes and other health issues frequently seen in emergency rooms. The New York Times even said, “Except for treating COVID-19, many hospitals seem to be eerily quiet.”

This is because people are scared of visiting the hospital due to the potential for coronavirus infection. The need for healthcare obviously didn’t stop, though, so telehealth was the clear response. Regardless of the differences between telehealth vs telemedicine, both services also found themselves dealing with the need to help patients find connection in a time of social distancing.

This is a huge concern for those dealing with mental health and addiction issues. Individuals fighting drug issues were hit particularly hard by COVID-19 emergence. Isolation can also worsen mental health disorders. If you or a family member are dealing with a similar situation, contact Transformations Treatment Center for telehealth and telemedicine options.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Telehealth

Telehealth and telemedicine share several common aspects, and one of the most obvious is that they each have pros and cons. Since telemedicine falls under the purview of telehealth, these will be discussed as one below:

Advantages of Telehealth

  • Access to information and specialists who would otherwise be out of reach.
  • Physicians can hear and see most symptoms – making it similar to a clinic visit.
  • Cost-effective options. In fact, insurers are covering more out-of-pocket expenses due to the COVID-19.
  • Reduction of non-essential emergency department visits.

Disadvantages of Telehealth

  • Practitioners can see high initial investment costs to implement telehealth platforms.
  • Platforms that connect patients to random physicians reduce care continuity.
  • Reimbursement rules can vary – but insurers are offering better coverage due to COVID-19.
  • Some patients prefer the ability to interact face to face to build rapport.
  • Physicians may face regulatory barriers dependent on their practice’s location.

Most of these disadvantages relate directly to practitioners who are not yet set up for telehealth and telemedicine offerings. At Transformations Treatment Center, our staff and professionals already have systems in place focused on continuity of care for individuals fighting addiction and mental health issues.

Understand Your Health Needs – And Fill Them

Whether you generally prefer to avoid clinical settings or you simply feel unsafe with in-person visits due to current issues (e.g. coronavirus outbreak), understanding the differences in telehealth vs telemedicine can prove vital. This information can help you better seek out services – from regular checkups to addiction recovery – that are essential for your overall well-being.

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