Telemedicine refers to the practice of caring for patients remotely, when the provider and patient are not physically present with each other, for the remote delivery of healthcare services, such as health assessments or consultations. Modern technology enables providers to consult with patients by using video-conferencing tools that complies with HIPAA regulations. Using telemedicine, patients can see a provider for diagnosis and treatment without having to wait weeks or months for an in-person visit. Patients don’t even have to leave their home.
As various parties seek more efficient ways to provide care at less cost to the patient, telemedicine’s role has grown. It is often a time-saving way for a consumer to see and speak to a clinician for minor and non-urgent medical needs instead of going to a primary care physician’s office or emergency department. In recent years, many states have passed laws that make telemedicine easier to practice, and federal health regulators are also exploring ways to further grant Medicare reimbursements for telemedicine services.
Telemedicine is a subset of Telehealth, which refers to a broader spectrum of remote healthcare services than telemedicine and does not necessarily involve clinical services. It includes nonclinical services such as continuing medical education, provider training and administrative meetings.
In contrast, telemedicine refers specifically to the use of medical information exchanged for the purpose of improving a patient’s health. It pertains to the use of electronic communications to provide clinical services without requiring a patient to come in to a doctor’s office or hospital.
Technology, such as video conferencing and transmission of digital images, are considered part of both telemedicine and telehealth.
Many people think of telemedicine as the wave of the future. In fact, the technology has already existed for years. Modern hospitals and clinics are currently offering their patients the option to use telemedicine.