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Telehealth vs Telemedicine. What is the difference?

There are many new medical terms today that the average patient may not be familiar with. The intersection of traditional in-person medicine and internet technologies can be a confusing place. What’s the difference between telehealth and telemedicine? Although the terms telemedicine, telehealth, virtual care, and others are often used interchangeably, there are some differences you need to know. Let’s find it out!

LifeScape Recovery Mental Health Services Depression, Anxiety & Addiction in Remote Workspaces

Telehealth vs Telemedicine: What’s the Difference?

Digital technologies promise to fulfill a natural demand in the digital age: how to bring patients and doctors closer to each other without the need to lose long hours through traveling but gain all the benefits of healthcare. It offers a chance to provide clinical services, get in touch, ask questions, and receive responses ASAP.

Policymakers, vendors, and service providers often use tech language or throw out terms inconsistently. We’re all confused from time to time! For example, the terms telemedicine, telecare, virtual care, and telehealth are often synonyms. The truth is that each of these terms refers to a different way of administering health care via existing technologies.

Telehealth refers broadly to electronic and telecommunications technologies and services used to provide care and services remotely.

Telemedicine refers specifically to remote clinical services. Telemedicine involves the use of electronic communications and software to provide clinical services to patients without an in-person visit. Telemedicine technology is frequently used for follow-up visits, management of chronic conditions, medication management, specialist consultation, and a host of other clinical services that can be provided remotely via secure video and audio connections.

Telehealth can refer to remote non-clinical services, such as provider training, administrative meetings, and continuing medical education, in addition to clinical services. For example, LifeScape Recovery is a top-rated mental health and addiction treatment facility in Los Angeles, California. Lifescape Recovery provides both in-person and telehealth IOP and PHP programs.

LifeScape Recovery Mental Health Services Outpatient Treatment Programs.

Virtual Care (Telehealth & Telemedicine) vs In-Person Visits: What’s the Difference?

The current times we are in are undoubtedly unprecedented, and many accommodations have had to be made to allow necessary operations to continue. Doctor’s appointments, therapy sessions, follow-up appointments, and intensive outpatient programs, or IOPs, have all been moved into the online space whenever possible to ensure the safety of everyone involved. Not only do these virtual appointments allow a higher level of safety to the medical professional and the patient, but they allow minimal contact with other individuals and patients, as well. The terms telemedicine and telehealth have become a common language for many of us these days, but what exactly is the difference between these two phrases, if there even is one? Today, we are going to discuss everything you need to know when it comes to the new world of telemedicine and telehealth.

As we have just mentioned, telemedicine relates to a specific category of clinical services being provided to patients over some sort of telecommunication technology. Telehealth is a phrase that is representative of a much wider range of virtual health services that are not just clinical. Think of telehealth as the umbrella term for all things related to medical services that are administered via video technology. According to Health IT: “These include live-interactive videoconferencing, remote monitoring, store-and-forward imaging, and provider education. Many different types of care settings can benefit from telehealth technology.”

Telemedicine falls under this umbrella, as it is the more precise description of medical assistance provided in this manner. Other services, such as the numerous ones we proudly provide to our patients at Lifescape Recovery, fall much better under the scope of telehealth rather than telemedicine. Lifescape Recovery utilizes telehealth to meet with clients for therapy sessions, to track progress, and for other necessary meetings and appointments.

Telehealth consists of these 4 basic methods:

Live video (synchronous)
Live, 2-way interaction between a person (patient, caregiver, or clinician) and a clinician using audiovisual telecommunications technology. These video conferences used to be exclusively clinician-to-clinician telemedicine encounters. But many companies, such as Teladoc and LiveHealth Online, connect patients directly to clinicians every day.

Store-and-forward (SFT)
Transmitting videos and digital images through a secure, electronic communications system. As compared to a “real-time” visit, this service provides access to data after it’s been collected. Generally, clinicians record or capture diagnostic information (like X-rays, CT scans, and EEG printouts) at the patient’s care site. Then, they send them to a specialist in another location. Because of the time delay between the image’s transmission and when it’s interpreted, SFT is often referred to as “asynchronous.”

Remote patient monitoring (RPM)
Personal health and medical data collection from a patient in one location which is then transmitted to a clinician in a different location. RPM helps clinicians and patients manage chronic illness. It uses devices, such as Holter monitors, to transmit information, including vital statistics — like heart rate, blood pressure, and blood oxygen levels.

Mobile health (mHealth)
Smartphone apps are designed to foster health and well-being. These apps offer a wide range of health-related help. A small sample includes apps that send targeted text messages encouraging healthy behaviors, alerts about disease outbreaks, and reminders that help patients adhere to specific care regimens. Increasingly, smartphones may use cameras, microphones, or other sensors and transducers to capture vital signs and venture into RPM.

There are several other ways to define telehealth.

Benefits of Telemedicine & Telehealth

Telehealth and telemedicine may sound really convenient for the population of megapolises, but sometimes it is vital for remote areas. Did you know that up in some parts of Alaska, patients’ records can only be transported on a sled with a Husky team if the internet connection is down? It could take around 30 days for them to reach the main city, Anchorage. Did you know that in Vanuatu, transporting a patient to the main hospital could mean a 4-6 hour boat ride? Or that the remote village of Supai in the Grand Canyon might only be accessible on horseback?

Here we collected the most remarkable examples of where telemedicine can truly make a difference.

  • 24/7 access — reach out whenever you need
  • Increased patient access to providers – Eliminate commute time and scheduling hassles
  • Flexible plans to meet your needs and lifestyle
  • Seamlessly switch therapists at no extra cost
  • Reduced healthcare costs – Save money while receiving high-quality care
  • Improved quality and continuity of care
  • Faster and more convenient treatment resulting in the reduction of lost work time and travel costs for patients

Telehealth and Telemedicine in California

The terms telemedicine and telehealth have been used pretty interchangeably as of late. However, hopefully, we have cleared up any confusion you were potentially still dealing with when it comes to this topic. At Lifescape Recovery, the telehealth services allow every patient to stay on track in their healing journey in a safe and healthy manner, while still receiving unsurpassed top-of-the-line care. If you are searching for mental health support or addiction treatment and guidance, the remarkable team at Lifescape Recovery is able to provide the absolute best quality care in these stressful times when it is anything but simple to find a trusted crew that has such an incredible telehealth system as we do.

Telehealth services should be aligned with the California Telehealth Advancement Act and federal regulations.

Currently, the following providers are approved to provide telemedicine services:

  • Physician office
  • Office of practitioner, including physician assistant, nurse practitioner, clinical nurse specialist, certified nurse-midwife, clinical social worker, clinical psychologist, registered dietitian, or nutrition professional (practitioners at the distant site who may furnish and receive payment for covered telehealth services subject to state law)
  • Critical access hospital
  • Rural health clinic
  • Federal-qualified health center
  • Hospital (including general acute care and acute psychiatric hospitals)
  • Hospital-based or critical access hospital-based renal dialysis center including satellites (independent renal dialysis facilities are not eligible originating sites)
  • Skilled nursing facility
  • Community mental health centers
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LifeScape Recovery is a top-rated mental health and addiction treatment facility in Los Angeles, California. We create a safe space for patients to explore their mental health goals and needs. We offer a free, confidential consultation to any new clients and provide a number of different therapies to treat a wide spectrum of mental health struggles such as depression, anxiety, eating disorders, and substance use disorders. Our IOP and PHP  facility is fully accredited.  We are one of the highest-rated centers for mental health treatment in Los Angeles, California, which provides both in-person and online therapy. Our patients express endless gratitude and appreciation for the staff and the services and recommend Lifescape Recovery for their friends, colleagues, and community. There has never been a more important time to address mental health needs!  Contact us today!

Published: August 18, 2021

Last Updated: November 14, 2023


Natalia Golenkova


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