Telemedicine vs Virtual Care: What is the difference?

Healthcare News & Updates

Recently, remote healthcare has become a vital necessity due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Patients and healthcare providers often need clarification about terms that refer to online healthcare practices, particularly virtual care, and telemedicine.

May 3
Dr Disha Patel
Cardiac Anesthesiologist, Shalby Hospital, Ahmedabad
Telemedicine vs. Virtual Care: What is the difference

These terms share the same goal but represent distinct healthcare system parts. In the current healthcare climate, it is essential to understand the differences between telemedicine, and virtual care, and their significance in the healthcare industry.


What is Telemedicine?

Telemedicine refers to using technology to provide long-distance healthcare services, which includes remote patient monitoringvideo conferencing, online health education, and virtual administrative meetings. This telemedicine technology approach adapts as technology advances and healthcare professionals aim to use the latest technology to optimize the healthcare system.

Some of the foundational telemedicine technologies include:


Video Conferencing: This telemedicine technology allows patients to have clinical appointments remotely, connecting them with healthcare professionals and administrators across the country or the globe. Even educators can use video conferencing to provide more accessible and attainable learning.


Mobile Technology: Mobile phones offer extensive capabilities within telemedicine, such as HIPAA-compliant messaging that allows seamless communication between patients, administrators, and healthcare providers. Patients can even track and upload test results and vitals from their phones, which helps clinicians dictate their treatment and decisions accordingly.


Remote Patient Monitoring: This technology uses a holistic approach to remote patient care, incorporating passive, interactive, and video-based components. It leverages existing and customized devices to monitor patients' health and well-being remotely, bridging the gap between different pieces of technology for a comprehensive telemedicine solution.


Telemedicine platform: Telemedicine platforms are the digital infrastructures healthcare providers use to deliver remote care services. These platforms can offer various features, such as secure messaging, appointment scheduling, online doctor consultation, and electronic prescriptions.


Telemedicine services have numerous telemedicine benefits, including improving access to healthcare services, reducing healthcare costs, and increasing patient engagement.


What is Virtual Care?

Virtual care refers to remote patient care that uses technology, including asynchronous and synchronous communication between patients and healthcare providers. It includes remote patient monitoring, virtual visits, and any other form of remote communication. Virtual healthcare technology can take the form of video sessions, emails, text messages, or even lab results delivered online.


Here are some examples of virtual care technology:


Virtual Visits: Virtual visits use video conferencing to provide instant access to healthcare providers for checkups, chronic disease management, and other medical needs.

Live Chat Messaging: Patients can message physicians in real-time to get professional advice on how to treat symptoms and determine whether they need a virtual or in-person visit.


Digital Self-Care Tools: These tools are designed to collect data and guide patients based on automated professional medical advice. After the physician becomes available or is required, they provide appropriate treatment to patients. This technology is used when clinicians are less readily available.


Telemedicine and virtual care solutions have been essential in providing remote healthcare services during the pandemic. These technologies have allowed patients to receive the care they need while minimizing their exposure to COVID-19. They have also helped healthcare providers increase access to care and optimize the delivery of healthcare services.


What is the difference between Telemedicine and Virtual Care?

Even though people often use the terms interchangeably, virtual care and telehealth are separate concepts. When comparing telehealth vs virtual care, it's important to understand that each field differs in its meaning, purpose, and delivery of services.




Telehealth includes all forms of technology used for remote healthcare, while virtual care is a component of telehealth that focuses specifically on communication between healthcare providers and their patients. 


Virtual care can take the form of virtual visits where patients interact with healthcare professionals via digital communication technologies. Telehealth, on the other hand, refers to the integration of information and communication technologies into the practice of protecting and promoting health. 


Essentially, telehealth is a broad term that encompasses all forms of remote healthcare, while virtual care is a subset of telehealth that specifically deals with communication between healthcare providers and patients.



Virtual care and telehealth serve different purposes in healthcare.


  • Virtual care improves remote communication and treatment between patient and provider, making healthcare more accessible to those who may have difficulty accessing in-person services.


  • Telehealth promotes greater remote healthcare at large, optimizing patient-provider interactions, offering solutions to educators and administrators, and improving healthcare systems overall.


  • Telehealth seeks to deliver more efficient and patient-centered healthcare services to those who face physical and financial barriers to accessing quality healthcare support, thus removing barriers to healthcare delivery and providing greater access to services for a wider variety of patients.




For virtual care to be effective, patients and healthcare providers must communicate clearly, whether it's through video calls or messaging. Clear communication is essential to providing virtual care services.


Telehealth goes beyond patient-provider communication. It

involves improving wireless and broadband connections, developing wearable medical devices, and designing user-friendly healthcare websites. These solutions lead to better telehealth delivery and enhance the ability to provide virtual care services.


Virtual care uses mobile technology to provide healthcare services through audio and video chats, instant messaging, and remote check-ins and monitoring. Telehealth relies on modern technology, such as video communication, wireless and broadband IP connections, wearable medical devices, and web-based networks, to improve remote healthcare services. Many equipment options and delivery models are available to provide healthcare over a distance.


Summary: Telemedicine vs. Virtual Care

Virtual care involves healthcare providers communicating with their patients remotely via technology, while telehealth includes virtual care services as well as other forms of remote healthcare delivery. 


Telemedicine solutions can involve phone conversations, video conferences, or interactive voice response (IVR) systems, and its goal is to incorporate information and communication technologies (ICTs) into healthcare to improve health outcomes. Virtual care is just one part of telehealth, a broad term encompassing many different types of remote healthcare delivery.

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1. What is the concept of telemedicine?

 Telemedicine is the practice of providing healthcare services remotely using telecommunications technology, such as video conferencing, to connect patients with healthcare providers who are not physically present. This allows patients to receive medical care from the comfort of their homes or in locations where healthcare services may not be readily available.


2. What is the use of telemedicine in hospitals?

The use of telemedicine in hospitals allows healthcare providers to remotely diagnose and treat patients, manage chronic conditions, and provide medical education and consultations.


3. What is the difference between telemedicine and remote patient monitoring?

Telemedicine involves real-time video or audio consultations between healthcare providers and patients, while remote patient monitoring involves the use of technology to track and transmit patient health data to healthcare providers for analysis and treatment adjustments.


4. What are telemedicine and its types?

Telemedicine is the use of telecommunications technology to provide remote clinical healthcare, and its types include live video conferencing, store-and-forward imaging, remote patient monitoring, and mobile health.


5. Which are all the different types of telemedicine?

The different types of telemedicine include real-time interactive telemedicine, store-and-forward telemedicine, remote patient monitoring, and mHealth (mobile health).