What is Telehealth and How it Differs From Other Types of Virtual Medical Appointments

As COVID-19 continues to spread, more people are turning to online solutions, particularly for medical appointments.

There are a lot of misconceptions about telehealth and what it is. Here is an overview of telehealth solutions and how they differ from other virtual medical appointments.

One of the most rapidly growing healthcare services at the moment is telehealth, which is expected to top 1 billion visits by the end of 2020.

While telehealth is still a relatively new health innovation, many patients are interested in using it because they can be treated from the comfort of their homes. It allows patients to continue adhering to social distancing guidelines put in place to stop the spread of COVID-19 and it’s also much more convenient. The average telehealth visit is 13-15 minutes whereas the average in-person appointment is two hours.

However, it isn’t the only type of virtual medical appointment.


What is the difference between an eVisit and telehealth?

There has been a lot of confusion around the differences between eVisits and telehealth services. Telehealth refers to a broad range of virtual care. It uses electronic information and telecommunications to transfer medical information.

This could be anything from sending and storing medical records in the cloud, a client/patient meeting, or even two medical professionals mentoring or training.

Therefore, telehealth is actually a much broader topic that encompasses several subtopics including telemedicine. Telemedicine is specific to treating, meeting with, and advising patients and most commonly done over secure video conferencing software.

EVisits, on the other hand, are appointments strictly between patients and doctors that are done either via text or phone calls. Unlike telehealth, eVisits cannot be performed with face to face video conferencing.


What technology is needed for telehealth?

The technology required for telehealth is very simple and user friendly for both young and elderly patients.

The most common video conferencing software used for face-to-face virtual patient meetings is Doxy.me and Zoom. Both are compliant with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA), which means that they meet the security standards set by HIPPA.

Unfortunately, cybercrime has increased drastically in the healthcare industry with just 18 data breaches in 2009 to 510 in 2019, so it’s critical that patients and providers only use HIPAA compliant software that is approved by their organization.


What is included in telehealth?

Telehealth refers to a broad range of virtual medical communication, not just clinical visits.

Telehealth can be used to give virtual training to medical professionals or to perform administrative meetings. It’s also used to store medical records in the cloud (on the internet).

However, the branch of telehealth you are likely most familiar with is telemedicine. This is typically where a medical professional meets with you to discuss your conditions and prescribe medications.

Telemedicine also allows doctors to monitor patients remotely through advanced technology that monitors your blood pressure, heart rate, etc.

MHealth, or Mobile Health, is another form of telemedicine (and therefore telehealth) that allows doctors to use interactive apps with patients to track performance and progress. For example, many hearing aids allow healthcare professionals to remotely adjust the settings of the hearing aids through an app.


Do telehealth and telemedicine mean the same thing?

No, telehealth and telemedicine do not mean the same thing, though they are often used interchangeably. Telemedicine only refers to the practice of treating patients remotely whereas telehealth refers to the larger umbrella of medical communications.

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