The striking similarities between Telemedicine and e-Health services can confuse most people. Even for a doctor like me, is quite difficult to categorize which services come under telemedicine and which can be put under e-health. While it is rightly said that telemedicine is one of the many categories under e-Health, I took it to myself to find out if there’s any difference between telemedicine and e-Health.
Telemedicine has been around a long time, but it gained prominence only recently, with the advent of computers and the internet. Two-way radios were the primary means of communication in the past century until the invention of telegraph and telephone much later. The first interactive telemedicine system for masses was developed over telephone lines in 1989.
The term ‘e-health’ was coined in 1999, which was around the time when other electronic services such as ‘e-commerce’ and ‘e-retailers’ were gaining importance. Internet was seen as the ultimate platform for all kinds of services such as buying, selling, entertainment and medical services too joined the bandwagon. Since then, e-Health has grown rapidly, expanding into all services pertaining to medicine, such as buying and selling of medicines, consulting doctors online, e-prescriptions, medical teaching and exchange of medical data.
Telemedicine and e-health are similar in some aspects, but still have notable differences.
Telemedicine involves online consultation with doctors and physicians and remote diagnosis services. No matter what the service is, telemedicine needs a human element on either side; internet is merely a medium to communicate.
On the other hand, e-health generally means providing medical services using the internet. The services can be automated, and may or may not involve any human elements. For example, using a mobile app to book an appointment or ordering medicines online do not require the user to communicate with anyone in order to avail the services that come under e-health.