Health Care IT Cheat Sheet: Telehealth, Telemedicine, and Virtual Care

Educational Briefing for IT Professionals

Executive Summary

Telehealth refers to a group of telecommunication technologies and clinical services that facilitate the electronic exchange of medical information. Though poorly reimbursed, telehealth programmes are becoming popular as providers seek to conveniently expand outreach services without compromising efficiency, clinical quality, or patient satisfaction.

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Why is Telehealth a key issue for providers?

Telehealth services are a primary example of how technological innovations facilitate high-quality care delivery to patients at an appropriate site in a timely fashion.

Telehealth programmes provide both clinical and financial value to providers and the communities they serve.

Rural and underserved communities benefit clinically from enhanced access to clinical care and expertise, and financially from a reduction in commuting costs and time.

Providers benefit clinically by expanding their coverage area and enhancing the standard of care by sharing clinical best practices, and financially through avoiding penalties for areas such as avoidable readmissions or higher-than-expected emergency department activity.

How is Telehealth used?

The purpose of telehealth technologies is to conveniently connect end users from remote locations for clinical, informational, or educational purposes.

Telehealth is a broad term that can be further classified as telemedicine and virtual care.

Telemedicine refers to services that are used support delivery of health care services, rather than for educational, public health, or administrative purposes.

Virtual care refers to services used to provide direct patient care, such as through video consultations. Examples of telehealth, telemedicine and virtual care services are shown below.

Examples of Telehealth, Telemedicine and Virtual Care Services

Questions That Hospital Executives Should Ask Themselves

  1. How is my organisation planning to use technology to increase access to care?
  2. How might telehealth technologies influence the patient experience at my organisation?
  3. What challenges exist for my organisation in funding a telehealth programme?

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