If you’ve been wondering what the difference is between telemedicine, telehealth, telecare, digital health, e-health, and virtual care, the answer is: very little. Often used interchangeably, these terms describe any service that makes the remote diagnosis and treatment of patients possible through telecommunications technology.
Telemedicine is essentially an innovative, online approach to helping individuals manage their well-being both proactively and preventatively. Not only do telemedicine service providers help drive the cost of maintaining a healthy workforce down, they offer a faster, more convenient patient experience that keeps employees happier, fitter, and performing at their best.
Telemedicine: Where AI Meets Empathy
From medical chatbots, to algorithms that help diagnose and treat patients, AI-assisted healthcare is rapidly becoming the new norm in places like North America, China, and the UK. Machine learning aptitudes, in fact, are what lie at the heart of progressive, on-demand health and wellness platforms like the one created and managed by Dialogue.
But with compassion and personal connection serving as the foundation of all effective patient care, it should come as no surprise that the key to making the most of any AI-driven solution is to anchor it to human-based interactions. And that’s exactly what Dialogue’s telehealth service does.
At the same time, with 86% of Canadians owning a smartphone, merging today’s widespread mobile connectivity with dedicated, multidisciplinary healthcare teams allows telemedicine as a whole to successfully bridge the gap between accessible, personalized care and improved patient outcomes – an achievement that hasn’t gone unnoticed by Canadian HR leaders looking to:
reduce employee absenteeism,
increase productivity in the workplace, and
improve employee engagement
Overall, virtual healthcare is well positioned to play a pivotal role in meeting the needs of our country’s aging population, coping with the rise of long-term chronic diseases like diabetes, and managing the burden of increasing health costs.
Tackling Healthcare Challenges Through Technology
Accessibility has long been one of the greatest challenges facing the Canadian healthcare system. Making quality, timely medical assistance available to everyone is often hampered by:
- the rationing of scarce healthcare resources,
- lengthy wait times for specialist appointments and emergency room consultations,
- the availability of after-hours care, and
- geography – especially where weather issues and travel distances to the nearest health centres are concerned
The idea of tackling hurdles like these through technology isn’t new - both the Canadian and the US governments have been investing in various forms of telemedicine since the early 1960s. But have those investments paid off? With the use of virtual healthcare increasing globally over the past several years, we certainly seem to be on the right track.
In the US, large, integrated healthcare providers like Kaiser Permanente are now seeing more patients online than in person. In 2016, the organization connected with some 59 million patients by way of virtual visit – a number that equates to 52% of all patient visits that year.
Virtual healthcare is also on the rise across Canada, where it regularly manifests as:
- mobile device-driven video conferencing with primary care physicians,
- home-based, online telepsychiatry sessions, and
- initiatives to connect patients in remote areas with medical specialists
All of this should be viewed as a giant step forward – especially since the CMPA (Canadian Medical Protective Association) advises that telemedicine not only helps patients to be more engaged with their health, it helps them better manage any chronic diseases (two outcomes, incidentally, that have been shown to result in fewer and shorter hospital stays, fewer emergency room visits, and less severe illness).
Putting Telemedicine to Work
So how does telemedicine work from a nuts and bolts workplace perspective? In short, any employee with a health concern can use their smartphone, tablet, or laptop to connect with an online healthcare practitioner- from wherever they happen to be in Canada.
In the case of Dialogue’s virtual healthcare program, that also means being able to communicate by phone call, online chat, or video – whichever offers the best fit in terms of personal comfort and immediate surroundings.
An ideal telemedicine experience with Dialogue works something like this: