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Explained: Telehealth vs. Telemedicine

There can be confusion surrounding the difference between telehealth and telemedicine, especially now as these terms are increasingly used during the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) response. The following explains how we define these terms.

What is telehealth and why is it important for you and your patients?

Telehealth refers broadly to the use of electronic and telecommunications technologies by providers to give care and services at a distance to their patients. In response to the COVID-19 outbreak, we have expanded our telehealth coverage to include additional treatment options and services that clinicians can provide to their patients telephonically, digitally or via live two-way video. There are no special network or program enrollment requirements for providers to perform and bill for telehealth services as outlined in our expanded Telehealth Coverage Guidelines and Telehealth Billing Guide

What is telemedicine and how does it differ from telehealth?

Telemedicine is a specialized program through Blue Cross in which providers give remote medical care to patients. Telemedicine involves using an eligible referring provider site (called an originating site) and an eligible consulting provider site (called a distant site) via two-way, real-time, interactive, secured and HIPAA-compliant, electronic audio and video telecommunications systems. Telemedicine typically consists of clinical services for a patient delivered from one provider to another with the patient present. Telemedicine requires enrollment and approval for participation in the program. For clinicians interested in providing these types of telemedicine services to their patients, Blue Cross has a Telemedicine Program with an operational policy and equipment standards for telemedicine services.