As telemedicine gains global awareness, it is important to understand the different forms it can take, and how the medical community interprets these distinctions. Four major groups that fall under the umbrella term “telemedicine” are listed below. Each can save a patient a trip to the doctor, but they vary slightly in their definition and implementation process:
Telecare technology helps medical providers monitor patients with chronic issues. There are a multitude of devices that assist with this, and can range from something as simple as a home sensor device that monitors movement around the house, to a Wi-Fi enabled scale that takes daily weight measurements. These results can be viewed directly or sent to healthcare professionals for assessments.
Telemedicine encompasses activities that providers and patients have been using for many years: consulting via phone, emails, or videoconferencing. This method of care helps provide people in rural settings access to medical treatment. Providers in dermatology, neurology, radiology, and many other specialties use telemedicine to augment their practices and provide better care to their patients.
Although similar to telecare, telehealth is more patient-centered. It involves tracking specific metrics (weight, heart rate, food intake, physical activity, etc.) for personal use or in conjunction with medical treatment. Smartphones now provide apps for most of these metrics, making it is easy to report findings, view results on a timeline, and easily share the information with a provider.
Telecoaching enables patients to be educated online. It is helpful for people who have a newly diagnosed condition because they receive training and information about their condition in order to help them effectively self-manage. With chronic conditions like diabetes and heart disease becoming more prevalent, telecoaching will be necessary in providing education to these patients.
Getting Involved: Medical providers who already utilize these methods of telemedicine are called “early adopters.” As the term gains familiarity within the medical community, more and more people will harness these treatment options in order to improve patient satisfaction, increase patient volume, and receive compensation for consultations they had previously been doing for free.