What Is the Difference Between Telehealth and Telemedicine?

Telehealth is sometimes discussed interchangeably with telemedicine, but telehealth is now the preferred term for all applications involving the delivery of health-related information and services.

The American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) defines the two terms as follows:

  • Telehealth: The use of electronic information and telecommunications technologies to support long-distance clinical health care, patient and professional health-related education, public health, and health administration.

  • Telemedicine: The use of telecommunications technology for medical diagnostic, monitoring, and therapeutic purposes when distance separates the users.

Telehealth service delivery can come in different ways such as live video (synchronous), store-and-forward (asynchronous), or remote patient monitoring.

  • Live video (synchronous) uses video conferencing technology to provide real-time interaction between therapist and patient.

  • Store-and-forward (asynchronous) means acquiring medical records and transmitting them to healthcare provider for offline assessment at a later time.

  • Remote monitoring enables medical professionals to monitor a patient remotely using various technological devices. This method is primarily used for managing chronic diseases or specific conditions, such as heart disease, diabetes mellitus, or asthma.

The telemedicine concept predates telehealth concept, and may be first introduced to Americans as early as in the 1920s. The April 1924 issue of Radio News introduced a concept called “radio doctor,” as seen in the magazine cover.

A 1925 article carried by Science and Invention predicted that by 1975, doctors would “see” patients through a television screen, and “touch” patients with tools remotely controlled by radio. By the way, television did exist in 1925, though it was not yet available to the consumer market.