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What is virtual healthcare, and how does it fit into telehealth?

Robert Strobl
February 10, 2022

When thinking about healthcare, most of us picture doctor visits, routine tests, waiting rooms, and lab check-ups. Today, the rising demand for an easy solution for medical professionals and patients, has reshaped the way we approach health and quality care support.

Over the past two years, the COVID-19 pandemic has brought major developments in telehealth, allowing patients to avoid traveling, waiting lines, and other expenses.

Healthcare providers have been also been drawn to adopt telehealth technologies. Prescreening and disease monitoring management are easily available in the palm of their hands via mobile apps or intuitive web applications.

What is the difference between telehealth and virtual care?

Even if they appear quite similar and are often used interchangeably, the two terms refer to the different ways of administering remote health care via existing technologies.

Telehealth is the integration of telecommunication system components aimed to promote health. In easy terms, it facilitates remote medicine practice, particularly for individuals dealing with physical or economical barriers. Besides adopting virtual care (which we will address down below), telehealth includes also medical devices, service and facilities recommendations, and more. 

Virtual care is an important component of telehealth, focused more on the way healthcare experts can conveniently stay in contact with their patients. Most assume virtual care refers only to real-time video calls between doctors and their patients. In reality, virtual care include also distance monitoring, check-ins, calendar and appointments management, access to records, treatment lists, and various documentation.

Virtual care can be supported by different features. Chats and instant messages are effective tools for check-ins, reminders, planning, and distance monitoring. While video or audio calls are effective instruments for appointments. In the future, the use of augmented reality might become an additional solution for remote clinical services.

According to Harvard Business Reviews, one of the main concerns patients had before adopting virtual care centered around the fear of losing the personal connection with their physician. However, after testing virtual care, more than 74% felt that the virtual interaction actually improved their relationship with their provider. 

Based on McKinsey & Company's 2020 analysis, psychiatry, substance management, and endocrinology had the highest telehealth service adoption rate across specialities.

Conclusion

Thanks to the success of telehealth and virtual care during the past two years, we will witness in the future, more and more health providers adopting remote care solutions. New technological developments will open the door to a more holistic approach with decreasing healthcare costs.

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