Telehealth is the electronic distribution of medical information and health-related services via electronic communication and telecommunication technology. It enables long-distance patient and medical professional contact, consultation, information, reminders, education, guidance, scheduling, monitoring, and remotely based admissions. Telehealth information systems are usually associated with managed care plans and are designed to coordinate the health care delivery processes between health care providers, beneficiaries, and insurers.
Telemedicine refers to a generic term for any technologies used in telephonic, online, and virtual patient care services that combine voice-based patient information, along with other types of interactive computer solutions. Telemedicine is particularly applicable to oncology, cardiology, neurology, orthopaedics, paediatrics, and veterinary medicine. This generic term is actually a collocation of several technologies, which have grown out of and are dependent on several primary research and development technologies. It is a general term that may apply to a variety of technologies such as computer-assisted telephone triage, computer voice response, computer-assisted patient education and referral, computer-assisted therapy, patient self-referral, voice response systems, video response systems, voice broadcast, voice mail, and telephone triage. It is a rapidly expanding field and refers to any modality that facilitates communication between healthcare professionals and their patients.
With an exploding growth in population – due in large measure to the ageing and rising population of the developed world – it is not surprising that medical researchers are turning their attention to ways to enhance patient care while reducing costs. In the past several years, several new developments have emerged that have added to the explosion of technological advancements that have defined telemedicine.
The other important development in telehealth is virtual visits. Technological advancements have paved the way toward creating sophisticated visual and audio displays that allow patients and their caregivers to interact via a wide variety of media. These technologically advanced visual displays allow a telehealth provider to create a virtual visit that can be used by multiple health care professionals. The resulting telemedical “virtual visit” allows patients and their caregivers to view the same information at the same time and makes it easier for them to access information on various aspects of their medical care. Telehealth technologies such as these are being used in tandem with new software technologies to provide better patient care.