Telehealth vs Virtual Care | Differences & Similarities

Here, we critically compare the two to clarify what they’re about.

In other words, telehealth vs. virtual care is looked at to make basic comparisons and distinctions. You’ll do well to read through this guide to the end for better understanding.

Without further delay, let’s get to business.

Virtual Care vs. Telehealth

Anyone conversant with primary care, mental health, oncology, mental health, and chronic disease management would have heard telehealth and virtual care interchangeably.

While that may be true, these healthcare fields aren’t necessarily the same.

Definitions

Understanding similarities and differences between telehealth and virtual care starts from the basic definitions.

Also called telemedicine, telehealth mainly facilitates access to healthcare from a healthcare provider without the need for in-person office visits.

Of course, necessary tools and equipment are essential to administering healthcare via telehealth.

Examples include communication devices like computers, smartphones or tablets, webcams, microphones, and speakers or headsets.

Other tools and equipment are necessary for administering healthcare through telehealth.

Such include telehealth software, high-speed internet connectivity, secure data storage & transmission, electronic health record systems, remote monitoring devices, etc.

Virtual healthcare, on the other hand, is a broad term used to describe remote communication and interaction with patients. It safely connects healthcare professionals with patients, thus complementing face-to-face care.

One of its key benefits is that it adds greater convenience for the patient.

A Subtle Difference

Regarding telehealth and virtual care, the difference between the two can be subtle.

This possibly explains why the two terms are used interchangeably. Speaking of the differences between the two, you’ll need to consider the applicability of these terms in healthcare.

For example, while telehealth is used for text messaging, video conferencing, and phone calls, virtual care is mainly restricted to video conferencing. Also, subtle differences can be identified with the definitions of both.

Telehealth is mainly described as the application of electronic communication to provide healthcare services from a distance. Virtual care, on the other hand, involves the use of video conferencing to provide medical care.

In What Areas of Healthcare Can Telehealth & Virtual Care Be Used?

To compare and contrast both approaches (telehealth and virtual care), you’ll have to consider the applicability of each. In other words, it’s necessary to look at the different areas of patient care where each approach comes in handy.

i. Telehealth Applicability

Regarding applicability, telehealth is typically used for specialist care, chronic care management, and education & support.

Other critical use areas include remote pharmacist services, remote consultations, remote patient monitoring, and pre & post-operative care.

Telehealth also gives access to specialists, second opinions, and self-management.

This adds to greater convenience and efficiency. Compared to virtual care, there are areas of similarity. What are these similarities? Let’s take a look;

ii. Virtual Care Applicability

In the case of virtual care, the areas of applicability are pretty varied—these range from the provision of online patient portals to remote patient monitoring.

Virtual care also applies to chronic disease management, remote consultations, and remote pharmacist services.

Telehealth Vs. Virtual Care: Similarities

It’s no secret that telehealth and virtual care are often used interchangeably.

While that is true, there are areas of similarity and differences between the two. Focusing on the similarities, both processes help integrate electronic health records or EHRs.

Also, telehealth and virtual care assist with patient empowerment and engagement and ensure continuity of care.

What more? Health monitoring, data sharing, and remote healthcare delivery are all made possible by telehealth and virtual care. Ease of accessibility and convenience are more similar.

Telehealth Vs. Virtual Care: Differences

Having identified the areas of similarity, it’s necessary to consider critical differences between telehealth & virtual care.

Compared to virtual care, telehealth is broader in scope and involves care being provided in real time. Virtual care is a newer concept that became more popular due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

It was adopted as a measure to checkmate the spread of the virus. Telehealth dwells more on the telecommunication aspect of healthcare.

In other words, it focuses more on deploying technology for remote healthcare.

In the case of virtual care, the objective is to leverage these technologies to provide effective and efficient healthcare services. Each (telehealth & virtual care) has unique advantages; both are essential to delivering quality healthcare services.

Telehealth Vs. Virtual Care: Professionals

Certain assumptions may not hold when comparing telehealth and virtual care.

One of those assumptions is that telehealth and virtual care require different professionals. This isn’t true. The same professionals providing in-person care will also administer remote care.

These include mental health professionals, nurses, physicians, medical assistants, telehealth coordinators, and patient navigators.

Others have specialists like radiologists, dermatologists, endocrinologists, health information technology (IT) specialists, and pharmacists.

Training is Necessary

All telehealth and virtual care professionals require initial and ongoing training. This helps with the efficient use of technology.

Key areas that might be covered during training include patient engagement and communication, technology & platforms, and legal considerations & documentation.

As a healthcare professional, you may also be trained on cultural sensitivity & competence, security & privacy, clinical guidelines, and best practices.

With this fact established, what programs or courses must one enroll in? There are several.

The University of California San Francisco offers a telehealth and virtual care certificate program for healthcare professionals.

The American Telemedicine Association also offers a course, Virtual Care: A Practical Guide. You can also explore Duke University School of Nursing’s telehealth course.

Explore other training resources like the National Consortium of Telehealth Resource Centers, The American Medical Association (AMA), the Telehealth Certification Institute, The Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS), and online universities and platforms.

What Information Do You Seek?

There are several reasons why people research on specific areas of concern.

This comparison of telehealth & virtual care will be helpful for regulators & policy makers, healthcare providers & organizations, technology developers & providers, patients & consumer advocacy groups, and academics or researchers.

The information provided gives you a better idea of each process. Backed by such information, making informed decisions is guaranteed.

Do you wish to go deeper? A ton of information makes more in-depth comparisons between the two. You only need to research for more details.