In much of the healthcare industry, the terms “telehealth” and “telemedicine” are used interchangeably.
However, after much reading, I discovered that telehealth is a broad term that includes health services using telecommunications technology and telemedicine refers specifically to clinical services.
Some examples that help explain the differences as noted by a company called eVisit are.
•A public health app that alerts the public of a disease outbreak
•A video-conferencing platform for medical education
•A mobile app that lets physicians treat their patients remotely via video-chat or skype
•A software solution that lets primary care providers send patient photos of a rash or mole to a dermatologist at another location for quick diagnosis
This article is an attempt to narrow down the topic of telemedicine reviewing some of its pros and cons.
Better quality patient care
Better access due to ability to get around the clock care
Allows patients to have more involvement in treatment decisions and managing their care.
Employers can potentially save billions by offering telemedicine to employees
Medicare does reimburse for real-time telemedicine services, but has lots of restrictions – on the eligible healthcare providers, the location of the patient, the medical procedures that can be done, etc..
However, there is a shift towards more widespread reimbursement for telemedicine through all third-party payers, with less restriction. Many Doctors using telemedicine may charge the patient a convenience fee -ranges from $35 to $125 per visit. This is direct from the patent on top of payer reimbursement. Is this additional cost worth it for the patients?
Training & equipment
This is the purchase, set-up and staff training of new technology and equipment. Many providers are stretched thin on new technology budgets and staff training for EHR systems, which was imposed by the Meaningful Use program. If patients do not have access to technology and the internet, telemedicine may not be an option.
And don’t forget,
The National Policy Telehealth Resource Center notes, “Compliance with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) is more complex than simply using products that claim to be ‘HIPAA-compliant.” Not only does the telemedicine platform need to be compliant, all providers, patients, and staff using the tool need to ensure they are in compliance with HIPAA. A telemedicine software vendor, for instance, not only needs to build a secure product, but also ensure their company is operating in accordance with HIPAA.