What is Telemedicine and Telehealth?

What is Telemedicine and Telehealth?

May 24, 2016

You do everything else on the internet, why not start seeing your doctor that way?

First, let’s get the boring (see fancy) definition out of the way.

The American Telemedicine Association defines telemedicine as the use of medical information exchanged from one site to another via electronic communications to improve patients’ health status.

They go on to define telehealth as a broader definition of remote healthcare that does not always involve clinical services. Videoconferencing, transmission of still images, e-health including patient portals, remote monitoring of vital signs, continuing medical education and nursing call centers are all considered part of telemedicine and telehealth.

Or, more simply put, telehealth can be used to describe things on both side of the fence. Your side as the patient and for the doctors and nurses use as well.

A Practical Definition

Here’s my definition, which will probably be closer to what you’re looking or hoping telemedicine can do for you.

It’s essentially your ability to communicate with a doctor on demand, 24 hours a day, seven days a week and 365 days a year. You can do that through a traditional phone call, text messaging, or a full video conference.

But that doesn’t really answer the whole question. Let’s run through a few more questions you’re probably asking yourself about this radically new service.

How Much Does Telemedicine Cost?

We’re kinda in the Wild West of telemedicine right now and there are several different pricing models out there.

The first is reminiscent of how you would traditionally pay for a doctor's visit with a copay from your health insurance policy.

Meaning you're going to have a fixed fee you pay for each visit, in most cases that fee is around $40. The best example of this would be a company call Doctor on Demand.

Then there’s the Netflix model. Pay a monthly subscription to have a doctor on call in your pocket whenever or wherever you need.

From what I can tell the only company offering this flat monthly fee is a company called Teladoc, which wholesales its service to people like us.

This process allows us and others to build custom packages with other benefits like dental, vision and pharmacy discounts in with it.

These packages can range between $12-$20 a month depending on what’s included.

If you want, you can take a look at the one we were able to put together.

What Are the Problems with Telemedicine?

There’s definitely a few.

If you want to start with the obvious, you're physically not in the same place as the doctor. That means the services and treatment you can receive will be limited to less serious conditions.

It’s also possible that the rash you’re trying to show the doctor won’t show up right for them to make a proper diagnosis.

It’s also important to note that a lot of the Teladoc like services aren't designed to monitor or treat ongoing, chronic conditions.

Technology is great, most of the time.

Let’s be honest, it always seems your wifi goes out when you need it the most, or your phone or tablet decides to crash at exactly the wrong time.

Ask those things to start preforming important medical related tasks and you can bet they can’t wait to let you down.

What Are the Benefits of Telemedicine?

These are pretty easy to define.

First, you don’t have to leave your house.

By not leaving your house that means you don’t have to play waiting room Russian Roulette and expose yourself to even more intense illnesses.

You’re not running on your doctor's schedule, they are running on yours.

That means you don’t have to worry about calling your doctor for an appointment only to find out he or she took two weeks off (again) for another European adventure.

The Bottom Line

It’s still pretty early in the telemedicine game, but already there are some exciting alternatives to help you get easier access to care.

Are they perfect, probably not. But the more you and other people give it a try the faster the whole system will improve and eventually transform the way you receive healthcare.

Next Step

Now let's dip your toe in the telemedicine waters a little further to find out more about the service and if it’ll work for you.