At Steelkiwi, we often see some confusion among business owners who try to label their remote healthcare services. Entrepreneurs that approach us use telemedicine and telehealth interchangeably in part because there are no generally accepted definitions for these terms. They both refer to the use of remote electronic communications. However, telemedicine and telehealth differ significantly.
This article explains the difference between telehealth and telemedicine. After reading it, you’ll be able to fluently use these terms in your everyday and professional life.
What is telehealth?
Telehealth is the use of telecommunication technologies like mobile phones, wearables, video conferencing, and electronic data (PDF reports, videos, and images) for facilitating remote medical services between patients and doctors or among many doctors.
As a type of healthcare service, telehealth comes in five forms.
Patient portals are online tools that promote improved doctor–patient relationships for better control over the treatment process. Such portals are either integrated with functionality that comes as part of an EHR system or are standalone systems.
Through patient portals, users can:
- schedule and cancel appointments
- refill prescriptions
- receive laboratory results
- review summaries of clinical visits
- update health insurance packages
- manage balances
For doctors, these portals help increase patient engagement, manage finances, establish workflows, and promote patient loyalty.
The MyQuest Patient Portal is a free and secure telehealth app for doctors and patients. Through this portal, users can check lab results, track overall health and medication adherence, review medical records, and refill prescriptions.
Mobile apps for professional networking connect physicians from around the globe with a powerful community they can turn to whenever they need help or a consultation. Via messaging and visual consultations, healthcare providers can connect with other medical experts to:
- get more data about a patient’s medical records
- discuss diagnoses and treatment options
- create private groups and collaborate with other specialists
- find or create events in their areas of interest
- expand clinical knowledge
- get real-time feedback on rare cases
For both patients and doctors, connecting through a telehealth mobile app or website eliminates travel and time-consuming in-person appointments.
Figure 1 is a professional network and a knowledge sharing platform that allows clinicians to access actual medical cases. Through Figure 1, doctors can share their knowledge, discuss rare cases, and even ask other clinicians for feedback.
Electronic health records (EHRs)
EHR systems are a substitute for paper charts. They give instant access to patients’ medical information. These systems offer accuracy for clinics and better standards of patient care. With EHRs, doctors can:
- store patients’ clinical information
- manage lab results and send patients for extra testing
- manage new and old prescriptions
- share clinical records with other healthcare providers to get professional insights and speed up treatment
- minimize paperwork while ensuring quality outcomes
Via an electronic healthcare record system, patients can:
- schedule, reschedule, or cancel appointments
- check their medical data and easily retrieve reports in an electronic format
- ask for refills to get the medications they need
- access treatment instructions or ask questions after an appointment
Epic is an EHR system favored for its strong focus on patient care. It serves hospitals, medical practices, academic centers, and healthcare providers. Epic is available in the cloud and on the web, and users can access core EHR features in the iOS and Android mobile apps. Scheduling, medical histories, e-prescriptions, lab integration, reporting, and analytics are among the basic features of Epic.
Education is the best way to maintain health. But it isn’t just doctors who educate patients. Patient education apps provide users with important information about diseases, empowering them to become more active in maintaining their health. Apps for patient education:
- visually communicate anatomy and conditions
- feature health-related articles, timely updates, and information on disease outbreaks
- give access to medication-related information
- offer treatment recommendations approved by experts
- allow users to search for health centers, testing services, etc.
MedlinePlus is a web app with a large medical library covering information on health conditions and wellness. All of this information is delivered in simple and understandable English and Spanish. Medical news together with an illustrated encyclopedia is what makes MedlinePlus a popular educational tool for patients.
Personal health apps
Personal health apps have brought the medical software market into the mainstream. This has happened because these apps are focused on helping users care for their health outside a clinical environment. Via personal health apps, users can:
- record their personal health data
- track meals, calories, and water consumption
- set up reminders to regularly take medications
- record pulse, daily steps, blood sugar level, and other important metrics
- scan barcodes
- track sleep patterns
- share progress with family members and doctors
MyFitnessPal is one of the best diet and nutrition apps, helping users keep track of their daily activities and food choices. The app includes 300+ workouts and a huge database of foods and product codes. MyFitnessPal also offers features like a step tracker, nutrient tracker, and calorie counter — anything to help users achieve weight loss goals fast.
What is telemedicine?
Telemedicine offers what patients can get through traditional in-office appointments with their doctors but with a small difference — physicians deliver care remotely. With telemedicine, doctors and patients use electronic communication tools for diagnoses, consultations, and treatment. For example, these tools may be mobile apps. Given recent events, telemedicine app development has in some cases become the only option to ensure care remotely.
As a type of care service, telemedicine comes in three forms. Each can operate as a standalone solution or work in conjunction with other forms for more comprehensive e-care.
Synchronous telemedicine requires real-time communication between a doctor and patient through a video or voice call. This communication is enabled by video conferencing software. Apart from improving patient access to quality medical care, real-time telemedicine reduces barriers imposed by time or transportation. And as this approach to medical care continues to evolve, telemedicine apps for video conferencing will soon become commonplace.
Through synchronous video visits, doctors can:
- diagnose a patient’s condition
- give prescriptions
- suggest home care
- track treatment
- schedule follow-up consultations
- consult on medicine and interactions
- order laboratory tests
Teladoc is a virtual medical practice offering the support of licensed healthcare providers with certifications in emergency medicine, pediatrics, family medicine, and internal medicine. After requesting a doctor via video call or text chat, a user can have a no-time-limit consultation. If there’s a need for medication, a doctor can submit a prescription to a patient’s local pharmacy.
Asynchronous (store-and-forward) telemedicine is the transmission of previously recorded and stored data (images and video) to a healthcare practitioner via an electronic communication system. After receiving these images or videos, the practitioner evaluates them outside of a live interaction. Store-and-forward telemedicine is similar to exchanging emails. This makes it a convenient means of interaction for doctors and patients with busy schedules.
Through such platforms, patients can:
- answer questionnaires about their health conditions
- take images or record videos of symptoms
- share MRI scans, test results, and X-rays (depending on the condition)
- record voice memos
DermEngine is a dermatology platform for imaging and documenting various skin conditions. To launch a consultation on DermEngine, users take photos of their symptoms and send them to a certified expert. The medical expert then reviews the received data and gives a comprehensive report on the condition.
This form of telemedicine is also called self-monitoring or self-testing. Remote monitoring allows patients to check their health conditions outside a clinical setting and receive 24/7 support. For example, using an electronic device, patients with diabetes can track their blood sugar levels and share this data with their doctors. Via the same app, doctors can review received data, send lab results, and give recommendations.
Glucose Buddy is a diabetes management mobile application where users can log their blood sugar levels, meals, and medications. Via Glucose Buddy, users can see changes in their glucose levels, track steps, add notes, and learn on the go thanks to a built-in education plan. What’s more, users can export medical data reports to share them with medical specialists.
What’s the difference between telehealth and telemedicine?
When it comes to telehealth vs telemedicine services, the best way to realize how they differ is to consider real-life examples of both.
Steelkiwi’s experience in telemedicine and telehealth app development
Meddy.co, a database of hospitals and doctors, is a project we recently worked on. Via the Meddy.co platform, patients can schedule visits with doctors while administrators can manage workflows.
This platform is an example of telehealth software that includes the following features:
- Patient profile management
- Booking, editing, and controlling the status of appointments
- Monitoring staff availability via doctors’ schedules
- Creation of time shifts
A year after its launch, the Meddy.co platform has attracted over 2,000 doctors and facilitated over 50,000 visits. Though the platform currently operates in just three markets, the owners are planning to expand to a larger audience soon.
Benemedic is an app connecting patients and medical specialists through video calls. This telemedicine app also allows for communication by chat or voice calls so patients can describe their symptoms. With Benemedic, doctors can keep all medical records in a digital format and effectively manage their schedules.
We incorporated the following features into Benemedic:
- Lists of symptoms and illnesses
- Doctors’ profiles with ratings
- Liking and following doctors
- Communication via video or voice calls and by chat
- Ability to upload medical data
- Payment system
Additionally, Benemedic offers users free access to articles with findings related to conditions and illnesses. All articles are written by certified doctors who offer consultations via the app.
Become a healthcare innovator with your own telehealth or telemedicine app
The coronavirus pandemic has caused unprecedented disruption to people’s lives. And it’s partly the result of COVID-19 that health consciousness is on the rise. You can seize this moment to shape the idea of your own telehealth or telemedicine solution.
Looking for help to realize your idea? We’ll offer our help to any startup or existing business that’s considering developing a healthcare app. If you want to decrease your staff’s stress, boost patient engagement, and enter the new era of medical services, drop us a line. We’d be happy to consult on telemedicine app development.