Editor’s note: Natallia explains how to distinguish between telehealth and telemedicine and shows how telemedicine technology can be of advantage to healthcare organizations and patients. And if you consider leveraging telehealth or telemedicine technology in your org, check ScienceSoft’s offering in telemedicine apps development.
According to MarketsandMarkets study, the global telehealth and telemedicine market will reach $191.7 billion by 2025. Such growth is mainly driven by the rising prevalence of chronic diseases, the shortage of doctors, increasing patient demand and acceptance of telehealth apps, advances in telecommunications, and strong government support. Also, as consumers tend to avoid healthcare facilities due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the virtual care trend is predicted to increase significantly this year.
The terms “telehealth” and “telemedicine” are often used as synonyms and, in fact, there is no big mistake here, because telemedicine makes up a significant part of telehealth. But there are also a couple of important nuances, which we will talk about below.
Telemedicine covers the field of clinical services and includes processes and technologies that enable healthcare providers to treat patients remotely, e.g., via mobile health (mHealth) apps facilitating remote communication of patients and healthcare professionals using video, audio, or instant messaging, etc. Here is how a patient-centered mobile health app may work.
Online videoconferencing (synchronous)
It allows patients to contact doctors via audiovisual technology for remote diagnosing, monitoring and treatment, avoiding face-to-face visits. Check this example of an app that has replaced unpaid phone calls with reimbursable video visits.
Patients’ data (e.g., CT scans, MRIs, X-rays etc.) is recorded, stored and sent to healthcare professionals (e.g., physicians, radiologists) in another location for analysis to support diagnosing or treatment without the need for a real-time interaction. Store-and-forward functionality is also effective for examining noncritical conditions with visible symptoms (such as skin problems, bruises, eye infections) using photos.
Remote patient monitoring
Remote patient monitoring (RPM) technology includes the collection of patient data by, for example, biosensors put on a patient's body, data transmission and analysis by a cloud-based platform, and reporting of patient data in real-time to a doctor or a nurse. RPM solutions allow healthcare professional to tune the treatment process promptly, e.g., by detecting new symptoms early, as well as make medical care more accessible for patients as their health state can be controlled even outside a medical facility. Telehealth software with RPM can also help reduce the number of hospitalizations, readmissions, and length of hospital stays.
The impact of telemedicine on healthcare can hardly be overestimated. According to Cochrane Library research, telemedicine isn’t inferior to traditional medicine in quality in the treatment of cardiovascular, skin diseases, diabetes, and mental disorders. For example, telehealth has been identified as a successful means of administering mental health services to deaf patients.
Health professionals I work with say that telemedicine is also useful for pediatrics as children are more interactive during virtual consultations in their home environment rather than in a hospital. Besides, telemedicine is making care accessible for patients living in rural areas and patients with mobility difficulties, including senior patients.
The term “telehealth” is more general and includes all remote clinical (telemedicine, described above) and non-clinical services, such as virtual providers' meetings and tele-education.
Tele-education technologies play an important role in overcoming the occupational isolation faced by rural and remote healthcare professionals. The examples include virtual projects such as TelehealthVillage, Project ECHO® (Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes), MATRC (Mid-Atlantic Telehealth Resource Center), and others.
Time to benefit from telehealth
I believe telemedicine and telehealth technologies are promising for healthcare providers, as they increase the availability of medical care, the efficiency of medical staff, as well as reduce care delivery costs. If you need professional assistance in any aspect of introducing telehealth technology into your services, ScienceSoft’s healthcare IT team will be glad to help you.