Live Video vs. Telehealth — What’s the Difference?


When you hear “Telehealth” it invokes an image of a doctor and patient talking back and forth on a video chat; something like Facetime or Zoom as if Live Video was the only thing thing that defines Telehealth when in reality it is only a small part of what it encompasses. According to The Center for Connected Health Policy, “Telehealth is a collection of means or methods for enhancing health care, public health, and health education delivery and support using telecommunications technologies.” This covers a wide variety of use cases, it can be distilled down into four different modalities:

So what’s the difference and how does this separate a telehealth live video platform from something like FaceTime?

Live Video (Synchronous)

Live Video is the most frequently used part of telehealth. A physician and patient use an audio/visual telecommunications platform to interact in real-time. This opens up a wide variety of applications, from Emergency Room support to education to consulting.

Patients in rural locations or underserved areas in particular benefit from Live Video, as it removes logistical barriers from their care delivery. Physicians are able to discuss patient cases or consult with medical specialists outside of their geographic area without needing to travel; making high quality care more accessible. This is especially relevant in light of COVID-19 and the need for social distancing.

One of the technology challenges with Live Video is the ability to conduct these sessions reliably and securely. This requires a HIPAA-compliant platform that can sustain quality video feeds under a wide variety of circumstances (i.e. low bandwidth, low technology literacy, a high number of connections). Security is especially important, as the PHI being transmitted is a prime target for hacking. We expand more on this in another post here. For a Live Video platform to meet the needs of providers it must be HIPAA compliant, reliable, and trackable. We created VSTConnect to meet all of these needs and more.

“The use of mobile and wireless technologies to support the achievement of health objectives (mHealth) has the potential to transform the face of health service delivery across the globe.”

World Health Organization

Mobile Health (mHealth)

mHealth is a growing area, currently, the bulk of the programs take the form of health call centers, emergency toll-free telephone services, and managing emergencies and disasters. However, mobile telehealth is on the rise as providers leverage smartphone applications and text-based services promoting healthy living and information campaigns. mHealth has seen significant traction in low and middle-income countries to support programs that reduce the burden of diseases linked with poverty such as HIV/AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis.

Remote Patient Monitoring (RPM)

Remote Patient Monitoring uses technology to take healthcare delivery outside of traditional settings. For instance, an older adult could use an RPM platform to transmit their vitals and other health data to their physician while still remaining in their home. By providing a constant stream of data, physicians can get a much clearer picture of their patient’s overall health as well as immediately identify when they may require additional (proactive) care.

Store and Forward (Asynchronous)

Live Video is synchronous, meaning that it works in real-time for both the patient and the physician. Store and Forward is asynchronous, meaning that medical information is pre-recorded and then transmitted electronically. This could be videos, images, x-rays, or any other health data. Instead of needing a video conferencing program, Store and Forward can be done with communication platforms such as a secure email.

The Next Step in Healthcare

COVID-19 has created a unique environment that has necessitated the expanded use of telehealth. Regular doctor’s appointments, mental health therapy, and even rehab and physical therapy have had to employ telehealth solutions. It’s a lot more than just two-way video, it’s a new way to deliver care. Telehealth closes the gap between healthcare and the patients it serves, allowing those who may not have access to care to get connected providers and pursue a healthier life.

At VirtuSense our mission is to create clinical insight for people and providers regardless of time, place, or circumstances. Currently, we offer two telehealth solutions:

 

VSTAlert – Remote Patient Monitoring for inpatient falls

 

VSTConnect – Live Video for physical therapy and rehab

 

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