Throughout the pandemic, the opportunity to engage in traditional healthcare dwindled due to the risk of infection and reallocation of resources. Now, with a large percentage of Americans fully vaccinated and demand for care increasing, the popularity of telemedicine continues to boom.
New research shows that virtual care will outlast the pandemic and the telehealth market is expected to reach $185.6 billion by 2026.
While we acknowledge the widespread acceptance of innovative healthcare delivery methods, employers and their employees can be confused and often overwhelmed over the set of terms used to describe certain virtual health services. Below we have defined the three most common virtual health services.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) defines telemedicine as “…using telecommunications technologies to support the delivery of all kinds of medical, diagnostic, and treatment-related services, usually by doctors.” Additionally, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines telemedicine as “…the use of electronic information and telecommunication technology to get the healthcare you need while practicing social distancing.”
Simply, telemedicine can be defined as modern telecommunication solutions to clinical health services.
The FCC states that telehealth is similar to telemedicine but “…includes a wider variety of remote healthcare services beyond the doctor-patient relationship.”
Telehealth includes such things as the ability of a pharmacist to access prescriptions at other locations or for a nurse to place outbound calls to patients to monitor medication adherence, gaps-in-care, and assist with appointment scheduling. Telehealth also includes remote non-clinical services such as provider training, administrative meetings, and continuing medical education.
According to technology vendor AthenaHealth, they saw telehealth volumes in their network increase from less than 1 percent of total volumes pre-pandemic to as high as 32 percent during the pandemic.
According to the FCC, telecare generally refers to “…more advanced technologies that allow consumers to stay safe and independent in their own homes.” This kind of care may utilize mobile apps, sensors, and other user-friendly digital tools. Keep in mind that telemedicine typically involves a patient and provider, whereas telecare might not involve an individual at all.
Virtual healthcare is not a complete replacement for in-person healthcare, but it can be a tremendously helpful supplement and even a temporary substitute for traditional care. We encourage employers to consistently communicate terms and definitions that are easiest for your organization to understand. Individuals who are well informed and have a positive experience using such services are more inclined to share this experience with friends, families, and colleagues — ultimately contributing to the popularity of this type of care.
Information provided by JP Griffin Group.