In this week's Knowledge Knugget, we talk about telehealth vs telemedicine. It's a question that we get all the time. While the words are often used interchangeably, they are quite different.
What is Telemedicine?
Historically, telemedicine is what you've heard for years. A lot of times it is referred to and you'll hear people say that they have telemedicine when it's just a phone, no video talking to a doctor. Or it may be asynchronous where you send images or text messages back and forth. Some people even refer to it as an online portal, where you chat back and forth with messaging to a physician or hospital.
Telemedicine in Rural Areas
People also refer to telemedicine that is facility to facility. You might have a rural hospital that has a telemedicine cart hooked up to a camera in a particular room used to connect with a specialty doctor in a larger location. This was used in a lot of rural communities where you didn't have specialty doctors that wanted to live in Smalltown, USA.
With an accessibility issue in rural communities, telemedicine was typically used as the nomenclature of that.
What is Telehealth?
The term telehealth means something different than telemedicine. When you talk about telehealth, this is making it so patients can connect anywhere. This could mean the patient is at home, in their office, their car (hopefully while not driving). It doesn't have to specifically be in a hospital connected to a telemedicine cart.
Telehealth is truly the future, it's where things are headed. As a healthcare organization, you need to be thinking that to acquire and retain your patients.
It's an innovative healthcare technology that allows you to service patients after hours and on weekends and get that billable revenue. This can expand your business beyond the physical four walls.
Whether you're a hospital or specialty doctors using it for followup, proactive care, and pre and post-operative appointments, it has to be telehealth. The home can be used as the originating site and it's simple and easy to use for the patient.
Improving the Physician Experience with Telehealth
While patient experience is critical for telehealth adoption, the physician experience is a key to telehealth adoption as well. A lot of the times you'll see telemedicine platforms sending your patients to download third-party applications. The physician becomes inundated with tech support questions rather than practicing medicine.
Patients may be wasting valuable time. They may have to download an app or ask the doctor what code they have to enter or what link they have to go to. This puts the physician behind schedule for appointments held in the office.
Telehealth vs Telemedicine - Key Things to Consider
So as you look at telehealth vs telemedicine, there are key criteria that you need to consider.
Can you scale this beyond physical locations into the home? That's where things are going. If you're servicing the Medicare population, you need to be looking at the Baby Boomers aging at home, renal care, in-home hospice.
Postsurgical consults are an example of the need to be able to scale into the home. You need a solution where your patients can connect from anywhere, meaning home.
As a physician using telehealth, you have to have good patient experience. It should be simplistic for them, where they can connect and not need tech support. They don't need training, they don't need instructions. This is also going to be critical for scaling.
Ask yourself the following questions:
Can your physicians connect anywhere through the browser without having to download apps?
Can they connect from their home computer?
While being HIPAA compliant through security can they connect from their phone or another device using a webcam and browser?
Can they connect from clinical rotations? Maybe you're at their hospital and they're at a renal facility or a long term care facility.
If you answered no to any of these questions, you need to implement telehealth services than telemedicine.
Telehealth Cost Effectiveness
Is your healthcare organization trying to expand and service business to business clients? Are you trying to service a home health or hospice agency? Are you servicing nursing facilities, renal facilities, hospitals, urgent care clinics?
If you're implementing telemedicine, you're going to be buying expensive hardware, software, medical carts at 90% more costs than a true browser-based telehealth solution. So if that's in your cards and you're trying to scale it, whether it's now or in the future, don't get into a situation where you're contemplating telehealth vs telemedicine. Our telehealth includes a browser-based solution.
You may be in a situation where you don't have the cap-ex to support hardware and software scaling with telemedicine. And it ends up in a closet or a throwaway on which we see all the time with clients. You can't support the future growth and the future of telehealth.
Thanks for watching this Knowledge Knugget on the difference of telehealth vs telemedicine. Download our latest white paper "Pros and Cons of Telehealth" and listen to the healthcare podcasts where we talk about all the use cases for telehealth.