What is telehealth?

Telehealth describes the use of electronic information and telecommunications technologies to support and promote long-distance clinical healthcare, patient and professional health-related education, public health and health administration. There are various types of telehealth technologies benefitting providers, healthcare organizations, and patients.

(Telehealth services definition from The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services)

A complete telehealth strategy must incorporate multiple types of telehealth services acting as a complete and comprehensive solution. When asking 'What is telehealth?', the answer includes an array of solutions that improve the delivery of healthcare for healthcare stakeholders, patients, and our communities.

Types of telehealth

There are several types of telehealth systems used, and being developed, that are considered to be telehealth technologies. These include mHealth (or mobile health), video and audio technologies, digital photography, remote patient monitoring (RPM), and store and forward telehealth technologies (commonly referred to as asynchronous) such as electronic consultations.

Telehealth organizations are expanding telehealth system offerings to address everything from physician/specialist shortages to increasing patient engagement and satisfaction as well as increasing provider communication, education, and satisfaction.

  • Live (synchronous) videoconferencing: a two-way audiovisual (teleconferencing) link between a patient and a care provider
  • Store-and-forward telehealth (or asynchronous telehealth) technology: documented transmission of a recorded health history to a health practitioner, usually a specialist, via secure messaging platform
  • Remote patient monitoring (RPM): the use of connected electronic tools to record personal health and medical data in one location for review by a provider in another location, usually at a different time
  • Mobile health (mHealth): healthcare and public health information provided through mobile devices. The information may include general educational information, targeted texts, and notifications about disease outbreaks

What's the difference between telehealth and telemedicine?

When diving into the question of “What is telehealth?”, or “What is telehealthcare?”,  it’s essential to understand the difference, and crossover, between telehealth and telemedicine.

On the surface, telehealth vs. telemedicine are terms that seem similar, if not the same. Indeed, these terms are often used interchangeably, including by such major organizations as the World Health Organization (WHO) and the American Telemedicine Association (ATA).

Although these terms can be used fluidly, they can also be distinct.

  • Telehealth often covers a broad scope of health-related services across many health disciplines, including dentistry, counseling, physical therapy, and other health domains.

     

  • On the other hand, telemedicine tends to refer specifically to clinical applications of technology (diagnosis, consultation, monitoring) used by physicians only.

Telehealth is a broad term, defined as the delivery and facilitation of health and health-related services including medical care, provider and patient education, health information services, and self-care via telecommunications and digital communication technologies. The definition of telehealth services can refer not just to remote clinical and telemedicine services, but also types of telehealth that include non-clinical offerings such as training, meetings, consumer/professional education, and more.

What are the benefits of telehealth?
  • Improves access to necessary care
  • Increases patient satisfaction and patient health outcomes
  • Decreases healthcare cost
  • Better manages “right time, right place, right provider care”
  • Reduces specialist and impacted physician visit wait times
  • Increases provider scope and satisfaction
  • Reduces hospital admissions and readmissions
  • Alleviates the effects of physician shortages
  • Facilitates increased patient engagement
  • Often reduces cost burden for patients
Why is telehealth important?

Our nation is struggling to improve the quality of healthcare and make the needed shift to value-based models. The need for innovative solutions to solve our country’s worsening healthcare access problem has never been greater. Models have proven time and time again that the key to maintaining population health and lowering expenditures is by delivering timely access to high-quality care. 

What is telehealth’s role in strengthening healthcare?

Telehealthcare increases convenience of care and access while decreasing costs and maximizing the physician time. Providers, payers, and employers alike are increasingly adopting various and connected types of telehealth solutions to improve healthcare operations and patient outcomes.

How to get started with telehealth
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AristaMD is a telehealth organization providing an innovative store-and forward, asynchronous telehealth platform that delivers timely access to specialty care through eConsults. The eConsult solution enables primary care physicians to collaborate with a national panel of top specialists on patient care plans—within 24 hours. AristaMD’s eConsult platform consistently replace the need for more than 70 percent of in-person specialty visits, significantly influence care plans 92 percent of the time, and can significantly reduce ED visits and hospitalizations from delivering more timely care.

Empowering PCPs to treat low acuity patients with the guidance of a virtual specialist avoids unnecessary in-person referrals and improves patient wait times while improving health system quality metrics and patient satisfaction.

With AristaMD, adopting an eConsult solution is simple and can be done quickly. Designed to seamlessly integrate into clinical workflows, the platform allows payers and providers to quickly and cost-effectively launch specialist eConsults. 

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AHIP-CTAC report: Leveraging telehealth to support aging americans

Telehealth can expand and enhance the delivery of health care services to geographically disadvantaged or underserved populations. Consumer groups, providers, employers, and health plans all see the expanded use of telehealth as means to give patients more convenient access to high-quality, affordable health care. With the incredible reach telehealth provides, health insurance providers are partnering with vendors to expand access to telehealth services for their members. Read more about how telehealth continues to change the healthcare landscape AHIP-CTAC’s report. 

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