More accessible, convenient healthcare for patients is the driving force behind the telemedicine field. Telemedicine was originally developed in the U.S. as a way to address care shortages, especially in remote rural areas. Now telemedicine is used around the world, whether it’s to provide basic healthcare in third-world countries or allow an elderly patient with mobility issues to see the doctor from home. Telemedicine has the power not only to break down typical geographical barriers to care access, but to make the entire healthcare delivery model more convenient to patients.
Telepathology has been successfully used for many applications including the rendering histopathology tissue diagnoses, at a distance, for education, and for research. Although digital pathology imaging, including virtual microscopy, is the mode of choice for telepathology services in developed countries, analog telepathology imaging is still used for patient services in some developing countries.
Healthcare systems, policymakers, vendors, and providers alike can attest to the many gray areas within telemedicine. One particular area that requires more clarity is the legalities surrounding telemedicine. With it being an industry that is constantly growing, it has become difficult to create a concrete solution. In addition, each state follows different laws for telemedicine, which makes it increasingly difficult to keep up with it.
“Telehealth is not a specific service, but a collection of means to enhance care and education delivery,” says the Center for Connected Health Policy (CCHP). CCHP further classify telehealth into four types of services, live-video conferencing, mobile health, remote patient monitoring, and store-and-forward. Most telehealth platforms provide one or more of these services, to a niche patient or consumer segment.
In its mHealth Roadmap, the Health Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) muddies the waters a bit. It uses the Health and Human Services Definition for telehealth — “the use of electronic information and telecommunications technologies to support remote clinical healthcare, patient and professional health-related education, public health and health administration” — then goes on to say that “telemedicine usage ranges from synchronous video chat between a patient and a doctor, to conferencing between doctors, to conferencing between doctors and allied health professionals (e.g., nutritionists, physical therapists), to providing live or recorded presentations to groups of patients who are geographically separated.”
Telehealth Private Payers Reimbursement: There is no federal mandate requiring private payers to reimburse for telehealth services, but several states have enacted telehealth parity laws. Parity laws compel payers to cover the same types of services provided through telehealth as those that are provided face-to-face. They also require payers to reimburse telehealth services at the same payment rate as in-clinic services.
As technology in the medical field continues to advance, the two terms will likely become more distinguishable. With these advances, there are fortunately industry experts like VSee that keep up with the varying changes for physicians and hospitals. Healthcare organizations interested in implementing telehealth or telemedicine do not have to do so alone.
Telecare is the term that relates to technology that enables patients to maintain their independence and safety while remaining in their own homes. This technology includes mobile monitoring devices, medical alert systems, and telecommunications technology like computers and telephones. Continuous remote monitoring of patients enables telecare to track lifestyle changes over time as well as receiving alerts relating to real-time emergencies.