The terms ‘telehealth’ and ‘telemedicine’ are often used interchangeably. Between media outlets, healthcare providers, and even patients, there seems to be little that distinguishes the two terms. But it turns out that they are separate things. They overlap to some degree, but telehealth and telemedicine are defined differently.
For the purposes of this post, we’ll rely on the definitions provided by the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP). Here’s what they say:
- Telemedicine is the practice of using technology to deliver healthcare services remotely.
- Telehealth describes the entire collection of technologies and services that make telemedicine possible.
In the simplest possible terms, telemedicine is a service while telehealth is the thing that makes that service possible.
Providing Healthcare Remotely
Telemedicine is something most of us have at least some experience with as a result of pandemic shutdowns. Some of us saw our primary care physicians online. Others used online platforms to make appointments, have prescriptions renewed, and ask general questions. The point is that most of us are now familiar with receiving healthcare services remotely.
For the record, that’s exactly what our healthcare kiosks do. They facilitate remote healthcare through video chat, real-time data collection, and on-board diagnostics. Yet despite that, CSI Healthcare is technically not a telemedicine company. We are a telehealth company.
We do not provide healthcare services. Rather, we design and build the technology that makes such services possible. Healthcare facilities, private practice owners, government agencies, and even corporate wellness departments all use our telehealth solutions to provide services to consumers.
Multiple Technologies Wrapped Together
The interesting thing about telehealth is that it involves multiple technologies wrapped up together. The AAFP specifically mentions “electronic and telecommunications technologies” in their definition of telehealth.
For our purposes, electronic technologies would include things like:
- computer hardware and software
- advanced diagnostic tools
- digital touchscreens
- patient portals and similar platforms.
In terms of telecommunications technology, you are looking at things like cellular and online communication options. You are talking about things like video chat, real-time data transmission, etc.
Healthcare Virtually Anywhere
All these technologies have finally reached a state of maturity that allows for providing healthcare services virtually anywhere. There are some remote parts of the world where internet access and cellular service is unavailable, but it’s only a matter of time before even that problem is solved.
In a practical sense, there are a lot of exciting opportunities for the telehealth industry to change how remote healthcare is provided. A good example is the X-1 Mobile Units we design and build. They are ideal for emergency situations, military deployment, and even rural healthcare services.
Mobile units featuring on-board diagnostics and real-time data connections allow healthcare providers to go into the field to provide everything from life-saving emergency care to routine exams. Whether it is triage after a natural disaster or giving people living in remote areas their first access to primary care, mobile technologies are definitely a game-changer.
A New Way to Deliver Healthcare
When you combine telehealth and telemedicine, you ultimately get a new way to deliver healthcare services. Seeing how both have flourished over the last two years or so, we can say that the COVID pandemic had at least one silver lining: it forced telemedicine to the forefront.
Telehealth and telemedicine have both been around a long time. Indeed, the very first remote healthcare kiosks date back to the 1970s. But now, telehealth and telemedicine have taken center stage. Despite being distinctly different, they are both contributing to a revolution in healthcare. A decade from now, healthcare delivery is going to look drastically different.