Healthcare Revisited

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Defining telemedicine vs telehealth

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Why do we bother distinguishing between Electronic Medical Records (EMR’s) and Personal Health Records (PHR’s)? I mean both of them are, at their core, just healthcare content management systems. Why do we spend all this energy distinguishing between them?

The obvious answer is that while the two solutions are certainly related technologies, they are designed to meet two very different needs, and are pointed towards two very different audiences. EMR’s are tools used to help clinicians manage and share content with other clinicians. PHR’s are there to connect with patients. Since this is such an obvious difference to anyone familiar with healthcare, why is it that we don’t bother to make the same distinction in the case of telemedicine vs telehealth?

There are two very different uses, two totally different audiences that these two solutions are directed at. By lumping them together, we’re failing to use either of them as well as we should. That means we’re doing a disservice to both groups of users, the same way we would be doing if we tried to lump EMR’s and PHR’s together and use them interchangably.

There is certainly some similarity between telemedicine and telehealth. They both use technology to remove the geographic barriers to providng healthcare services. Sometimes, they even use similar technology, but that doesn’t really matter because the technolgy is just a channel. In the end, what healthcare consumers are “buying” when they use either telemedicine or telehealth is the service and expertise on the other end of the line.

In healthcare, there are two different kinds of clinical services that can be provided; care delivery and consultation. Each type of service has a different consumer. When a patient comes to a provider seeking care, and we respond with diagnosis or treatment, that’s care delivery. In that situation, the consumer is the patient themselves. But sometimes, the clinician doesn’t have the answer themselves. This is when consultative services come into play. Whether I’m looking to a radiologist for a read on a CT scan, or asking a stroke neurologist for their help in deciding to treat a stroke patient with TPA, If one clinician is asking another clinician to collaborate and share their expertise, that’s a consultation.

The same way that EMR’s are the right tool for clinicians and PHR’s are the right tool for patients, TeleMedicine lets clinicians connect with other clinicians to remove the geographic barriers to consultations, TeleHealth connects patients to clinicians, and makes it possible to deliver care regardless of distance.

One Response

Finally! a clear explanation to distinguish the 2. Thank you!

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